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The Word for World is Forest

(Hainish Cycle #5)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  12,555 ratings  ·  1,063 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 Hainish (the
ebook, 160 pages
Published May 15th 1989 (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)

Community Reviews

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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,555 ratings  ·  1,063 reviews

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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 shows that the
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 simi
"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, preco
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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 gol
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
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
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, sf-top-20
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
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 nat
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, american, scifi, fiction
"--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 ways. It makes me think of Monet's many versions of the same church front or pond. Masters all. An artist doesn't have to go very w
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.
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 art, by ar
Úrsula nos presenta un planeta perdido de la mano de dios donde el hombre pretende colonizarlo. Con un trasfondo filosófico y una mediática guerra entre dioses nadie estará a salvo de la cruenta batalla a la que se enfrentan.

Me ha parecido realmente sublime. Pone a los todopoderosos hombres sobre las cuerdas y hace ver que seres menos evolucionado como son los crichis también pueden tener sentimientos y en ocasiones liderar una auténtica revolución.

Vídeo reseña:
Berfin Kanat
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...ağaçların altında belki de başka hiçbir yerde olmadığı kadar evinde hissediyordu kendini.
Nasıl da üzücü bir kitaptı. Orman ve Dünya kelimelerinin aynı anlama geldiği bir gezegen, orada yaşayan masum bir halk ve medeniyet götürme adı altında o gezegeni işgal eden, ölümü ve köleliği götüren vahşi insanlar. Kitabın tanıtım yazısında Dünya kurtulsa bile aynı dünya olabilecek miydi peki? deniyor ya, en çok da bu kısım üzüyor okuyucuyu. Kısa göründüğüne bakmayın, derin bir kitap o yüzden odaklanar
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
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 Disneyfied take on
Santiago L. Moreno
La mayor parte de las veces, las relecturas suelen decepcionar. No es el caso. La novela de Le Guin me ha parecido más compleja que hace unos (demasiados) años. Quizás el tema ecológico, hacia el que la realidad ha dirigido su atención con insistencia desde entonces, parezca en la novela menos llamativo que en el siglo pasado, pero el poso ideológico que la autora le imprime siempre a sus obras sigue vigente. Más para este lector, pues donde entonces me pareció que la obra tomaba partido por la ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it
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 tries to figure
Allison Hurd
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 is absolutely brill
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
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 the thin
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
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 done and abs
Oguz Akturk
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kitap alamayan çocuklara kitaplar hediye edeceğim Youtube kanalımda, kitaplardaki alıntılar hakkında videolar hazırlıyorum. Destek olmak isterseniz abone olabilirsiniz:

Oğuz'un fantastik-bilimkurgu türü çıraklığında, düş-dünya ile gerçek dünya medceziri arasında hayatını orman olarak seçmiş yaratıkçıklarla, doğaya düşman kesilen oksijeni para, fotosentezi bencillik insan müsveddeleri arasındaki sosyolojik savaşı, Ursula'nın kelime seçimleri, üslubu ve konu özgü
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 perspec
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi primer Le Guin, pero no el último.
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Metis yayınları sağ olsun kitabı okurken şöyle hissettim.
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)

Part of Seasonal Reading Challenge 2018 Fall/ᴛᴜᴍ Task 25.1
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Word for World Is Forest" Full Discussion *spoilers* 110 311 Nov 18, 2018 08:20AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Wrong Page Count 7 29 Apr 21, 2015 12:07PM  
Sci-fi and Heroic...: The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K Le Guin 14 74 Oct 03, 2013 08:15AM  
I just had a question. 3 46 Oct 25, 2012 08:19AM  
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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 (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.” 28 likes
“For if it's all the rest of us who are killed by the suicide, it's himself whom the murderer kills; only he has to do is over, and over, and over.” 17 likes
More quotes…