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City of Illusions

(Hainish Cycle #3)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,468 ratings  ·  560 reviews
He was a fully grown man, alone in dense forest, with no trail to show where he had come from and no memory to tell who — or what — he was.
His eyes were not the eyes of a human.
The forest people took him in and raised him almost as a child, teaching him to speak, training him in forest lore, giving him all the knowledge they had. But they could not solve the riddle of his
Mass Market Paperback, 10701, 2nd printing of 1967 Ace edition, 160 pages
Published 1967 by Ace Books
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I really enjoyed this 1967 SF novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, set on a far-future version of Earth. A man stumbles through the forest, his mind a complete blank slate, his eyes alien, golden cat's eyes. He's taken in and taught by a small group of humans, who teach him their language and give him the name of Falk, but eventually he is encouraged to leave and go find out who he really is.

And so a dangerous, cross-country journey begins. Earth is sparsely populated by humans who live very simply, repo
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
City of Illusions by Ursula K. Le Guin is a part of her Hainish cycle of books.

This work involves an alien traveler who has arrived in a forest region of what was once the eastern United States with amnesia. His journey across the continent allows Le Guin to describe a dystopian landscape that could compliment the future as described by Walter M. Miller, Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.

The book is highlighted by Le Guin’s remarkable imagination and her sparse but descriptive prose. The subject m
J.G. Keely
Like the rest of the early books in the Hainish series, this one has a very familiar tone and plot. We have our isolated, alienated protagonist on his quest for one single goal through an unpredictable world which he cannot comprehend, making strangely disconnected romantic liaisons on the way, and constantly lost in thought about how human relationships are supposed to work.

But of all the series, this book uses these recurrent themes in the most interesting and naturalistic ways. The first half
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book should probably be a wake up call for me to stop judging books based on their cliche titles, but it most certainly won't. In my defense, I read the dreadful City of Bones as a teenager and immediately fought the urge to cleanse my mind with sanitizer. (I know how this sounds, okay? It was just that bad for my brain cells.) And fantasy writers aren't exactly remarkably creative with their book titles. I also disliked the first two books from The Hainish Cycle (to my great dismay) so I h ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
Parth and her family live in a comfortable house in the forest, in a timeless tranquility. Suddenly, a man with yellow eyes and no mind stumbles into the sunny clearing where she sits weaving. How's that for an alien encounter scene?

This book takes place on a mysteriously depopulated future Earth. For some reason, perhaps because it's so far from the reality of the tamed landscape of this isle, I've had recurring dreams and fantasies of the land covered in forest 'thick with deer' with only occa
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s difficult to believe that Le Guin wrote this book only two short years before her masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness; they both take place in the same basic “Hainish” universe, but they each feature extremely different versions of the details and the history of that universe.

This novel is also much more cerebral and restrained than the incredibly impassioned, brutal, beautiful Left Hand of Darkness, although it is also beautifully written. But I do prefer the latter.

However, she still
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this for the "Evolution of SF" group

I always feel as if I should like LeGuin more, especially the Hannish Cycle, of which this is #3, the one before The Left Hand of Darkness which is supposed to be a true classic. While I did like the original EarthSea trilogy & The Lathe of Heaven, these books are just OK yet most seem to think they have great messages & are fantastically written. I don't understand it. The idea of a race that changes sexes (
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
City of Illusions opens to a mysterious premise, grows increasingly intriguing, intensely distressing, and reveals itself cunningly profound. A truly captivating and thought provoking tale - a literally cerebral read, if there ever was one. Impossible to put down, once it starts seeking, asking, answering and hypothesizing.

Pure and delightful Le Guin train-of-thought.
Nate D
The truth is largely inaccessible to the limited scope of a single perspective. One of the key themes here that remains highly pertinent today. Also, the utility of falsehood, the ease with which a false narrative may be created and corroborated, the complex truth of identity. If Rocannon's World was LeGuin's early fantasy quest reimagining, this is her post-apocalyptic barbarian story, but it's also the hinge point from her more direct early work into her more thematically complex later works ( ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a very concise Philip K Dick novella if you just take the last third or quarter of the book: a game of deceit and reality-plumbing and distrust of identity, but nowhere near as freewheeling. From a pure plotting perspective, this phildickian aspect is undercut by the previous three-quarters of the book, as Falk's experiences form the reader's bedrock. But I doubt that Philip K Dick is really where Le Guin was going.

I never quite warmed to this. The long journey to Es Toch felt meandering
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2018, scifi, american
"There's always more than one way towards the truth. Strap yourself in."
- Ursula K. Le Guin, City of Illusions


"Truth, as ever, avoids the stranger."
- Ursula K. Le Guin, City of Illusions

'City of Illusions' is the third book in LOA's Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1. It was originally published in 1967. It has two main narrators Falk and Ramarren. It is infused with anthropology, philosophical speculations on the nature of truth, time, lies, patterns, knowledge, mortality, i
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it
A man wanders out of the forest with a severe case of amnesia. The locals take him in and try to teach him their ways, as it is obvious that he is not of their world. When he has learned all he can from them, he must set out across the vast continent toward the city of Es Toch, hopefully to figure out where he came from, why he is there and what happened to his memory. The most important lesson imparted to him from the forest people is to trust no one, particularly the Shing.
Three quarters of t
Charles Dee Mitchell
May 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: mid-century-sf
Other reviewers emphasize that there is no need to read La Guin's Hainish series in any particular order. But I do not know what I would have made of City of Illusions had I not read Planet of Exile first. When this novel came out, there had been three Hainish novels published in two years, and so readers did not have the eight novels we have now to choose from. It's more likely that readers came to this work with the first two under their readers' belts. Writing about City of Illusions opens up ...more
Fairly early work by Ms. Le Guin in the soi disant Hainish Cycle, and this is definitely one of the novels that the author cites as having "some discrepancies", is how I believe she puts it. We're starting to see here a merge of hard sci-fi adventure into a more sociological and exploratory area. I'm old-fashioned in my choice of favorites, so I like the adventure and "man of action" vibe in this book. It also has a hint of Norton again, with a mysterious outsider alone against a hostile environ ...more
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
City of Illusions is Le Guin's 3rd book in the loosely related Hainish Cycle. This is a quest story - a man who lands on Earth not knowing his identity or past. He traverses a distant future North America, ravaged by climate and political change, meeting many people along the way. It is about the nature of Truth, falsehood and pretenses, and about belonging.

Only 160 pages, this one is another early work, but readers familiar with UKLG note the seedlings of ideas that come to fruit in later novel
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Le Guin is a master at taking a workaday story of a protagonist suffering from acute amnesia (sound familiar?) and turning it into a focused think-piece on self awareness and discovery of who we really are. It took a long time in the narrative to get to the core premise, but when it was revealed, it made me put the book down for a minute to really contemplate Le Guin's theme.

In one of Joan Didion's essays she opines, "We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be - w
David (דוד)
A decent book. Great imagination of imagery, surroundings and ideas; loved this part the most. Liked the first half more than the other. Bleak dystopian landscape. Various factions of Terrans displaying different expert abilities, was nice. Interesting ideas, like Mindspeech, Talking animals (a slightly disturbing idea), lying and mind-lies, etc. Overall story was okay/good. The journey of the Quest was interesting. Perhaps not amongst one of Le Guin's finest books.

A one-time-read certainly reco
Jan 25, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

I'll always be a fan of Stefan Rudinicki's narrations! However, I think this series is best read vs listened to. It wasn't really made to be heard by audio.
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, fromtbr
Imagine darkness.
In the darkness that faces outward from the sun a mute spirit woke. Wholly involved in chaos, he knew no pattern. He had no language, and did not know the darkness to be night.

Le Guin knows how to write opening lines. In this instance we open upon a man being found, however he is essentially a blank slate. The people who find him seem to be a small tribe, they take him in and call him Falk for his strange yellow eyes, and they have to teach him everything. Soon Falk understands
Kat  Hooper
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Originally published at FanLit

“You go to the place of the lie to find out the truth?”

Ursula K. Le Guin’s HAINISH CYCLE continues with City of Illusions, which I liked better than its predecessors, Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile. City of Illusions takes place on Earth sometimes in the far future after an alien invasion has killed off most of the people and has completely changed the Earth’s ecology, infrastructure, and geopolitical arrangement. There’
Ursula K Le Guin wrote city of Illusions in 1967, the third book in the Hainish Cycle, the one before The Left Hand of Darkness. Unlike The Left Hand of Darkness, City of Illusions didn't win awards and it is not on lists of books one should read. What a great oversight that is. This is a terrific book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Our protagonist stumbles out of the forest, knowing nothing, remembering nothing, naked, amnesiac. He is taken in by a clan of forest people who nurture him, teach him, and
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
City of Illusions was my favorite of the trilogy (Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile.) Like the others, it's about a journey of sorts, and starts off slow and gradually builds in intensity. But to me it was also the most mature work of the three, dealing with themes of illusion, dissolution, and dystopia.

We begin with a madman, or child-man, in the woods who has no memory of his past, and who is taken in and cared for by a forest family. After he recuperates, the patriarch of the family has a
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book ''City of Illusions'' was a really nice surprise for me.Small in size,very easy to read and with a very interesting main character,the book has a really good pace and a lot of suspense.

The fact that the Shing race' domination on Earth was based not in weapons but in their extremelly unique ability to play mind games and lie,made the main hero's task extremely difficult.

However once more Le Guin's ability to make her heroes outreach their problems and triupmh,not through violence but mos
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am again amazed at Le Guin’s capability of creating a world, a strange culture so vividly. This book is about a journey of self-discovery, an adventure, a quest, it is about trust, history, perspectives, ways of life, and belief, it is about (view spoiler).

«Truth, as ever, avoids the stranger.»

«There’s always more than one way towards the truth.»
Frank Privette
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe Ursula LeGuin finally hit her stride as a novelist in City of Illusions, the third book of the “League of Worlds” part of the science fiction Hainish Cycle.

Firstly, there’s finally a plot. Secondly, we actually care about the main character, Falk (won’t give away anything else here), his situation, his crisis, his development. Third, there is something resembling an adversary (again, I won’t give anything away). Sure, the love-interest is an added “nice to have.” But it doesn’t really
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me this book, third in the Hainish cycle, marks a sea change in Ursula K Le Guin's writing. It's themes are far more complex, the world building superlative, the characters layered with traits that surface when least expected. It laid the foundations for Left Hand of Darkness in subtle ways.

A man out of time and place who knows nothing of himself appears in the Forest of a post apocalyptic Earth, an Earth controlled by the mysterious alien Shing whom no one fully understands. This mysterious
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, audio, digital, space
This is a very delicate, slow paced, touching yet manages at times to be a bit disturbing. On the one hand a potential tool to affect total transparency and openness was shown in earlier books and now it is reversed on itself to play with perception vs reality and identity vs self, are they interchangeable or self governed.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-horror, scifi
With his odd yellow cat's eyes, Falk appears suddenly -- naked and without any memory of his origins -- in the Eastern Forests of the planet called Earth. He is brought up by kindly forest people, but decides to travel by himself to the "City of Liars," Es Toch, from which the Shing rule the planet. For most of City of Illusions, we follow Falk who is treated with welcome or with cruelty by the various peoples he meets on his way. Eventually, he hooks up with a woman named Estrel while they are ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, scifi
Judging by the standards of "books written in the 60s", this is probably a B+ or A- book, but judging by the standards I've come to expect from Ursula Le Guin, it's more like a C. The book is well-structured and tells an interesting story about a far future, after the age of man on Earth, and it has an interesting premise: exploring notions of trust under conditions of vast uncertainty - amnesia, culture shock, and mental manipulation.

This is the kind of book that's really hard to pull off. It's
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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

Other books in the series

Hainish Cycle (9 books)
  • Rocannon's World (Hainish Cycle, #1)
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle, #2)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)
  • The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle, #5)
  • The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #6)
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness (Hainish Cycle, #7)
  • The Telling (Hainish Cycle, #8)
  • The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (Hainish Cycle, #9)

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