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The Compass Rose (Orsinia)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,754 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
North to Orsinia and the boundaries between reality and madness...South to discover Antarctica with three ladies from Chile...West to find an enchanted harp and the borderland between life and death...and onward to all points on and off the compass. Twenty astonishing stories from acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin that carry us to worlds of wonder and horror, desire and d ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published March 2nd 1995 by Harper Voyager (first published May 28th 1982)
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Mar 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All fans of short (especially speculative) fiction
I read both this and another Le Guin story collection, The Wind's Twelve Quarters, sometime in the late 80s or early 1990s; 1992 is a best guess. The author's death earlier this year gave me some impetus to finally review it now. Le Guin is an author I count as a favorite; but while I've enjoyed all of her novels that I've read, her short fiction is a more mixed bag. Some of her stories I really like; some I can't appreciate at all. They're also a mixture in terms of genre; many of the 20 storie ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I just discovered that the following short story is available on the Web. How often do you see something that wittily satirises both linguistics research and nihilist poetry and still manages to be thought-provoking and moving?

MS. Found in an Anthill

The messages were found written in touch-gland exudation on degerminated acacia seeds laid in rows at the end of a narrow, erratic tunnel leading off from one of the deeper levels of the colony. It was the orderly arrangement of the seeds that first
Aug 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've come to the conclusion that with Le Guin's work, by far the smartest thing to do in a review is to do the linguistic equivalent of smiling, vaguely, mysteriously, and nodding slightly. You look smarter that way.

Probably the best way to read The Compass Rose does not involve a distracting girlfriend or a reading list as long as your leg with a time limit of about a month. As always, though, Ursula Le Guin's writing is beautiful, and her ideas are amazing and clever. "Some Approaches to the P
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Short stories are a tough area for me. I want to like them, but often they fall flat for me; this collection is no different. The nice thing is that if one story doesn't touch me, the next one is coming soon.

So, honestly, it's a 3.5 read for me.

These are not generally upbeat stories. There is a lot of dark, near-future stuff, stuff that is, like good dystopian-style stuff, frightening because I can see how it could happen. I wish more people read this kind of writing, to be warned, to be aware
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5% of these stories were lame.

But, 95% of these stories had all the magic, wonder, anxiety, and WTFery of Ursula K. Le Guin at her finest.

And let's be real: "lame" Ursula still kicks the pants off your local sparkling vampire.

Buy this title from Powell's Books.
Dennis Fischman
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rereading this after many years, I admire the art of Le Guin's writing and the playfulness of her imagination. I found "The Diary of the Rose" especially moving. A young woman psychologist treats a political prisoner and gradually loses her innocence. Read it to decide for yourself what she gains.

Other stories are romps, spoofs, parodies, like "Intracom" and "Some Approaches to the Problem of the Shortage of Time." Yet others are fables, myths, with a touch of the horror story about them: read "
Feb 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very good stories - some about old women - hey we need more stories about old women.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fav stories: author of the acacia seeds, the eye altered, the one about maze dancing, the one about werewolves
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, short-stories
This collection of short stories was assembled a few years after the author's "The Wind's Twelve Quarters", which I remember as being uniformly wonderful, although it's been many years since I've read it. Here there was some unevenness, I won't say of quality, but at least in how much I enjoyed each piece.

Nearly every story has a definite Science Fiction or Fantasy bent, which isn't really surprising. What did surprise me was that two of my three favorites ("Gwilan's Harp", and "Two Delays on th
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
distopya ve le guin hayranligimin dahi kurtaramadigi bir iki öyküyü saymazsam (ve cok iyi ceviriye rağmen gözüme batan bir iki düzelti hatasını) son dönemde severek okuduğum kitaplardan olduğunu soyleyebilirim ama sadece distopya severlere öneriyorum, yeni tanışacaklar için zor bir okuma olabilir.
favori oykulerim: anka, intrakom ve (tabii ki) gülün günlüğü.
Again, most reviews don't contain a table of contents, so I'll add mine as I (re)read. One disappointment: I had expected to see an illustration of an actual compass rose, which is not in this edition. The early compass-makers were making works of utility and beauty. We haven't completely lost this combination: but it's apparently not as much of a priority anymore.


Preface: Really an explanation of the name and theme of the book

First Section: NADIR

(1) The Author of The Acacia Seeds: And
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: collections
An interesting collection of short stories, loosely themed by a 'points of the compass' motif.
With twenty stories included in quite a slim volume, many are really short. There's no real theme to the book overall, though some issues are tackled more than once and from different angles - totalitarianism and definitions of insanity, for example, are dealt with humorously in 'SQ' and more seriously in 'The Diary Of The Rose' - but overall, it's very much a mixed bag, mixing humour with more serious
I liked the Compass Rose, but found it best to read slowly. I read one or two stories in a day, if I had the energy and picked the book up at all. Some stories were more difficult to comprehend or get through than others. "Schrödinger’s Cat" reminded me why I didn’t go into science, but the anthology shows off Le Guin’s academic range. One of my favorites is "the Author of the Acacia Seeds" with its look at languages. Most of the stories ranked a 3 or 4 out of 5.

the Compass Rose is a mixed bag o
Kathleen Fowler
Ursula LeGuin writes beautifully, but I don’t always like what she writes. This book is a perfect example of that: out of 20 stories, I only strongly liked eight, and strongly disliked seven others. I found this to be a strangely uneven collection. LeGuin, unlike many or most writers of science fiction and fantasy, is not chained to her genre, as this collection attests. She simply uses whatever genre works for the thing she wants to say. She can entertain, she can make the reader think, she can ...more
Feb 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The first story hooked me; but sadly my excitement about discovering another Le Guin book to read completely lost momentum. The second story in the book, while fascinating on some levels, killed my interest in reading the rest of them. It may be that this just isn't the right time for a book of short stories. Or it may be that I have found some of Le Guin's work that I do not like. I decided to move on to a novel rather than a collection. I think that may be more what I am looking for right now.
Too much of a mixed bag. Some stories are virtually incomprehensibly boring. Others, when I just get into them, they end. This kind of collection doesn't work for me.
Bob Newman
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
(Le) Guin and Bear It

Over the years I have always thought of Ursula Le Guin as a very brave and non-conforming sort of person. I kept her photograph on my wall for a couple decades. The reason for my admiration was that I felt (and feel) that she is a writer of major talent who decided to enter the field of science fiction and get labelled as a "sci-fi writer" when she could have won many honors and perhaps a more lasting place in history in mainstream literature. Her works do not cater to the b
Matthew Lloyd
I'm not certain that I'd ever previously read a collection of Ursula K Le Guin short stories that didn't include either an Ekumen/Hainish or an Earthsea story, with the exception of The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth . I bring it up because it means that the tone of this collection is somewhat different, less familiar, than the others that I have read. This unfamiliarity should not be read as a negative. While, as with any collection, there were ups and downs ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
2 stars = it was okay

Ursula is an ineffable writer, yet I feel this lower rating of mine is not due to the prose not being great, but rather not being the kind of prose for me. With half of the stories, if not with the majority, I asked myself "So what? Why did you tell the story?", I felt there was no real point, like with the man who returned to the house he spent his childhood in. We read about him, his life, he then went to a house. End. To me, many stories felt like glimpses into mundane li
Patrick Scheele
Aug 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The front of my copy says, in Dutch: "Stories bordering on realism, magic, fantasy and science fiction" At least in the case of science fiction this book never crosses the border. Sure, I remember one story set on an alien planet, but the aliens were indistinguishable from primitive humans.

I skipped a lot of pages, because most of these stories were high on atmosphere (i.e. wordy) and low on substance. I'm sure there are people who love absurd stories or beautifully described settings with not
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This collection is vastly inferior to LeGuin's previous one, "The Wind's Twelve Quarters." In fact, this one is mostly window dressing around the one undisputed masterpiece, "Sur." If pressed, I might recommend "SQ," a clever piece of satire, and its obverse, "The Diary of the Rose," both of which imagine a tyranny of psychiatric evaluation. "The Eye Altering" is serviceable as well, and "The Pathways of Desire" prefigures the much, much better space anthropology of "Solitude." As for the rest, ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favourite set of Le Guin short stories. A few are shared with the Buffalo Gals collection which I had read previously (The Author of the Acacia Seeds, Mazes, The White Donkey and The Wife's Story - all rather good). My problem lay with the more playful and satirical numbers (Intracom, Schroedinger's Cat, SQ) which felt merely facetious. The Eye Altering is, I think the best story on view. The remainder could be out-takes from Orsinian Tales or Searoad - not bad but not her best.
öncü Türkmen
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ursula le guin'in kendi tarzında hikayelerden oluşuyor. bazıları bilim kurgu bazıları surrealist öğeler taşısa da hepsinde ortak olan şey yazarın politik duruşu ve psikolojilerine derinlemesine girilmiş karakterler. genel atmosferi karamsar bir tad içeriyor.

sadece bilim kurgu öğeleri için okumak isterseniz bazı hikayeler yavan gelebilir. yazarından bağımsız olarak düşünülmeden, anlatan kişinin ursula Le Guin olduğunun hep farkında olarak okununca keyfine varılacak bir kitap.

Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baştaki öyküler oldukça yaratıcı fikirler taşıyordu, bu fikirler yazarın romanlarında olduğundan daha samimi bir üslupla yazıldığı için gayet başarılıydı. Ancak yaklaşık yarısından sonraki öyküler bana aynı tadı vermedi, bu nedenle kitabı çok hoşnut bir şekilde bitiremedim.
Nicholas Alcock
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps one of the finest collections ever written in the English language, even more so than its predecessor. Its only flaw, perhaps, is a certain lack of cohesion, but this is fixed by dividing the book into thematically-linked sections. Every individual story is a jewel.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Strong bookend to this set. First and last stories were prob my fav
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The way these stories are told turns your eye deep down inside and makes you reflect upon your own stories. Beautiful, enchanting, philosophical...
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every story of this book I read through gasps, unable to believe my own eyes that such a book exists. Ursula-esque magic, through and through <3
Ann Macdonald
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Weird, amazing, clever, this is a book of short stories which I took my time dipping into. Made me hungry for more by this author
Julien M.
Nov 03, 2012 rated it liked it
The Author of the Acacia Seeds' and Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguists
Rating: 3 stars
Review: Quite entertaining and quite bizarre.

The New Atlantis
Rating: 3 stars
Review: Interesting, but I felt I missed something after I finished reading.

Schrödinger's Cat
Rating: 3 stars
Review: I wasn’t familiar with Schrödinger's cat before reading this, but it entertained me.

Two Delays on the Northern Line
Rating: 3
Review: Interesting, to some extent.

Rating: 4
Review: A little e
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more
More about Ursula K. Le Guin

Other books in the series

Orsinia (3 books)
  • Malafrena
  • Orsinian Tales
  • The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs

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“ play the instrument you have.” 2 likes
“Do you realise,’ the phytolinguist will say to the aesthetic critic, ‘that they couldn’t even read Eggplant?’ And they will smile at our ignorance, as they pick up their rucksacks and hike on up to read the newly deciphered lyrics of the lichen on the north face of Pike’s Peak.” 0 likes
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