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The Word for World is Forest

(Hainish Cycle #5)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  13,609 ratings  ·  1,158 reviews
Centuries in the future, Terrans have established a logging colony & military base named "New Tahiti" on a tree-covered planet whose small, green-furred, big-eyed inhabitants have a culture centered on lucid dreaming. Terran greed spirals around native innocence & wisdom, overturning the ancient society.

Humans have learned interstellar travel from the Hainis
Paperback, SF Masterworks, 128 pages
Published March 26th 2015 by Gollancz (first published March 17th 1972)
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Abhinav Kapur they are loosely related in that it's the same universe and some of the over-arching concepts are repeated throughout.

For example, they talk about…more
they are loosely related in that it's the same universe and some of the over-arching concepts are repeated throughout.

For example, they talk about the ansible in The Word for World is Forest, a device that didn't yet exist (but was essentially the core work for the main protagonist) in The Dispossessed.(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Kevin Kelsey
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: award-hugo, read-2015
Posted at Heradas Review

1/23/2017 edit: The world lost an absolute literary giant today. If you haven't read Ursula K. Le Guin, do yourself a favor. She's fantastic.

The Library of America just published these definitive hardcover collections of Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle novels and stories, which made my decision to finally start working my way through this classic series of speculative fiction that much easier. I’m going to be tackling these in no particular order, since my research show
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If it’s all the rest of us who are killed by the suicide, it’s himself who the murderer kills”

So muses author Ursula K. LeGuin in her 1972 novel The Word for World is Forest. The winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novella, LeGuin’s mastery of the language and the genre are in full display as well as her remarkable imaginative powers.

Revisiting her “Hainish” cycle of works (not a series of books but rather a group of stand alone works with a thematic central core – somewhat similar to H
"Maybe after I die people will be as they were before I was born, and before you came. But I do not think they will."
In every book by Le Guin there is that special something for me, something that grabs a firm hold of my mind and heart and stubbornly hangs on, refusing to let go, burrowing deeply, growing roots, sprouting shoots that will go on to quietly, unobtrusively, almost imperceptibly change my mental landscape forever - by making me really think, by challenging established ideas, preconcepti
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
3.5 stars, rounding up. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In The Word for World is Forest, Ursula Le Guin’s 1972 Hugo Award-winning novella, she works out her frustrations with the Vietnam War, colonialism, and ecologically insensitive societies. The human colonists on the world Athshe have enslaved the 3-foot tall, furry green native people and have created ecological disaster everywhere they go. They’re stripping the forests for logging purposes, as timber is worth more than gold back on Earth, to
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-top-20, favorites
Good short books are profitable reads, therefore great ones are greatly profitable. I am thinking of the time invested in reading the entire book and the pleasure, inspiration or education gained from them. This book clocks in at 189 pages but Le Guin made every word count.

Like most of Ms. Le Guin's works this is a thought provoking story. What happen when we introduce evil into a hitherto innocent and passive culture? The Athsheans are very vivid creations, the story of their enslavement and e
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, science-fiction
Another excellent instalment in the Hainish Cycle. Ursula le Guin has become one of my favourite authors ever despite the fact that none of her writing has really astounded me. There is just something about each one of her books that makes them both enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Also, this book has proto-ewoks.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
They were here, in Centralville, twenty-seven lightyears from Earth by NAFAL and four hours from Smith Camp by hopper, the second batch of breeding females for the New Tahiti Colony, all sound and clean, 212 head of prime human stock.

Written in 1972, this second book in the Hainish cycle is chillingly prescient about the modern world we are living in today. Although the main theme is deforestation, echoes of "The Handmaid's Tale" and of conservative attitudes regarding economic imperatives, le
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2010
In all honesty, the basic premise of this novella is the one I've read/seen many times before both in fiction (the latest version is James Cameron's "Avatar") and reality.

A group of evil and greedy Terrans is in a process of colonizing a new planet - Athshe. What it means, as you can guess, is that Terrans destroy Athshe's ecosystem by cutting down the planet's forests and sending wood to their mother planet Earth (which by this time is nothing but a barren desert) and enslave and abuse the native
Devastating. I continue to be astounded by the depths of feeling, wisdom, and truth that Le Guin was able to unearth in her work. This was in many ways the most brutal of her books that I’ve read, but it is still filled with a terrible beauty and even some hope.
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, fiction, 2018, american
"--the anthropologist cannot always leave his own shadow out of the picture he draws--"
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for the World is Forest


The more Le Guin I read, the more I love her. Reading Le Guin for me these last couple years, reminds me of how I felt when I first discovered John le Carré. They seem to both be able to write the same theme in so many different way
Arielle Walker
And people still think Avatar had an original concept.
(Though I'll admit the visuals are gorgeous)

Le Guin did it first, and did it better. The Word for World is Forest is heartwrenchingly beautiful, all the more for its continued relevence nearly half a century since first publication.

Her introduction to this edition is also exquisite, and discusses not only the need and reasoning behind the writing of this story, but also the need for the creation of any such story.

"The pursuit of a/>
My love for LeGuin's work just keeps growing with every book of hers I read, even when she does everything she can to break my heart. Her novels are always thought-provoking, and she can make a small page count pack one Hell of a punch: at a mere 128 pages, "The Word for World is Forest" still left me devastated. This is a story about hatred and violence, the harm they cause in the long and short term; it's about colonialism and the preservation of aboriginal cultures, deforestation, militarism… ...more
Ben Flasher
Much as I'm in agreement with this book's message of environmentalism and nonviolence, I found its delivery of that message to be preachy, joyless, and heavy-handed. Its tale of colonist humans and their conflict with the native Athsheans transplants the worst atrocities of colonialism's past into the future, but loses any subtlety and nuance in the process.

It doesn't help that the Athsheans embody just about every romanticized stereotype of the native primitive. Like the most Disney
Allison Hurd
I had to sit with this one a bit before reviewing. A hard-hitting look at imperialism, humanity and the appropriate use of violence, once again Le Guin manages to distill everything into a perfect clarity that is at once easy to follow and vastly complex.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics) (view spoiler)

Things to love:

The writing. As usual, Le Guin i/>The/>Things/>CONTENT
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, ecological, ethics
Hainish Wars: Episode VI
Return of the Anthropologist


A strange little green furry face with huge black eyes comes slowly into view. The creature is an ATHSHEAN, by the name of SELVER. He seems somewhat puzzled, and prods LJUBOV with the butt end of a spear. The anthropologist groans; this frightens the stubby ball of green fuzz and SELVER prods him again. LJUBOV sits up and stares at the three-foot-high Athshean. He tri
My friend Josh described this as the book James Cameron ripped off to make Avatar, to which I replied, "Can you really rip off imperialist guilt? Also, hello, dragons." While I stand by both of those assertions, Cameron clearly lifted heavily from this book, so, ok Josh, you at least half win. Like basically all suckers for the Pocahontas trope, though, Cameron failed to grasp the central irony of said trope, namely that it redeems the oppressor while continuing to rob the oppressed of their age ...more
I've come to regard Ursula K. Le Guin very highly and think she's become one of my favourite authors. Her stories are beautiful and deep and always touch me in a way that is hard to describe. For any who've yet to pick up one of her novels, I can't recommend her work enough.

The different perspectives given in this story are so contrary and the light it sheds so illuminating. The conflict is unavoidable and the reactions are sometimes so misguided but always completely believable.

One of
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, favorites
Great book by a great writer. If you've not yet read any Ursula K. Le Guin, then start with this book. If you've only read a couple by Le Guin and are wondering what next to sample, follow up with this book next.

I've only read two other titles by Le Guin, but I wish I had started here first. Le Guin's work is dense and requires some work on the part of the reader, but this book (actually just a novella) is far more accessible and serves as a great introduction to themes and concepts used in her other wor
I need to think about my rating. The story has some very important messages but I wish I'd never read it. But everything else deserves five stars.

EDIT: So this book had a really strong effect on me and I feel that it deserves five stars for that alone. Emotionally I really struggled with this story and found it quite devastating. I also found it terribly realistic and totally heartbreaking. Yes, there's a part of me that wishes I had never read it but I also think it was really well
Roy Lotz
This here’s another book-club read. Because I didn’t pick it, I came into this short novel with almost no expectations, which is always a nice way to begin a book; for when you have no expectations, everything good tastes sweeter, and everything bad less bitter.

Le Guin’s little parable was a pleasant surprise. She is a fine writer, especially when she is describing scenery. Her prose is not workmanlike, but generally well crafted. I also found it pleasant that she switched her narrator’s
Wow. Ms. Le Guin never fails to deliver.

There were a few over-the-top characterizations, but considering the era that she wrote this, and the points she was making, they aren't necessarily bad moves by the writer. (view spoiler)

Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I sat, polite, but wanting desperately to excuse myself from the spilt paint, methodical cacophony of clumsy dialogue, garish colors, interludes of mind numbing dead air, segueing into blindingly confusing scenes of (horrible) video game action, and a story that was told to death 70 years ago by people who had had so much passion for the worlds they were creating. A film which quite literally created a world with $300,000,000 worth of CGI, horrifically failing to trump the real juice… ... ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is not a new premise. Humanity brings devastation to a new colony and destroys the forested world and its inhabitants. We've seen it many times. Avatar comes to mind among others. Ursula Le Guin tells the tale in a unique and interesting way. Her descriptions of the world, the inhabitants and the scenery is great. Chapters are told from different viewpoints and every character has a distinct voice. In fact the change in tone and style and in word choice is amazing to follow. All in all a gu ...more
First Second Books
Reading UKL is like a deep draught of pristine mountain air. James Cameron's Avatar ripped off this book without the complexity, nuance and poetry.
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I see that I read this in the form of a book only in 1983. However, as a novella, it has been anthologized and collected in many places, and I'm sure I have read it repeatedly. For example, it appeared in Harlan Ellison's 1972 landmark, Again Dangerous Visions.

On the colony world of New Tahiti, a conflict is inevitable between the militaristic logging operation of distant Earth and the native “Creechies.” The setting is the interstellar frontier during an early time in LeGuin’s Haini
Jun 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Tor recently re-released the Hugo winner The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin in a lovely paperback edition, so I thought it finally was time to check out this famous short novel, originally published in the seventies.

The novel is part of Le Guin’s famous HAINISH CYCLE (see also, among others, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed) but can be read completely separately, although being familiar with the larger story will give you a better understanding of the bro
Oleksandr Zholud
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella won Hugo and was nominated for Nebula. It is part of Hainish Cycle, together with such well-known novels as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. It was written in 1972 and is definitely a protest against the Vietnam war. Just like with the other works of Ursula K. Le Guin, my initial reaction is wary, but after finishing it, I praise the books highly even if I cannot support all her views. And this can be the true measure of her genius, for preaching to a choir is easy, preaching to the other side ...more
LeGuin's prose shines, her worlds are balanced and fantastic and sad, she neither flinches from nor condemns the human condition. Every time I return to her I feel like I'm drinking from some wise, secret well.

Much of the book's descriptive attitude parallels James C Scott's notions of legibility and metis in SEEING LIKE A STATE. Anthropology is the common ancestor, of course, but I wonder about the proper genealogy of these ideas.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Damn. A heartbreaking commentary on the brutality and nature of imperialism. Le Guin is so good with words - every word precisely placed to be brutal, but never shocking. It's anger and despair and frustration, but there's still some beauty to be found.

The only criticism that I have is that perhaps it's a little too short for the topics being discussed, and so it can feel a little fleeting and superficial at times - but on the other hand, to dwell on the events in any greater detail
"Maybe after I die people will be as they were before I was born, and before you came. But I do not think they will."

This book is devastating. Le Guin explores the darkness that can lurk in the souls of human beings and she gives the reader no easy way out. Because she knows that darkness needs to be confronted if it is to be driven out.

I will not be done thinking about this novel for a long time.
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Word for World Is Forest" Full Discussion *spoilers* 110 314 Nov 18, 2018 08:20AM  
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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, Oregon.

She w

Other books in the series

Hainish Cycle (6 books)
  • Rocannon's World
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle #2)
  • City of Illusions
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4)
  • The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle #6)
“A forest ecology is a delicate one. If the forest perishes, its fauna may go with it. The Athshean word for world is also the word for forest.” 33 likes
“Sometimes a god comes," Selver said. "He brings a new way to do a thing, or a new thing to be done. A new kind of singing, or a new kind of death. He brings this across the bridge between the dream-time and the world-time. When he has done this, it is done. You cannot take things that exist in the world and try to drive them back into the dream, to hold them inside the dream with walls and pretenses. That is insanity. What is, is. There is no use pretending, now, that we do not know how to kill one another.” 21 likes
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