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The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

(Hainish Cycle #9)

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  4,125 ratings  ·  376 reviews
The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, five Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards, the renowned writer Ursula K. Le Guin has, in each story and novel, created a provocative, ever-evolving universe filled with diverse worlds and rich characters reminiscent of our earthly selves. Now, in The Birthday of the World, this gif ...more
Paperback, 362 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published March 5th 2002)
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Jordan Denning Each novel and short story in the hainish cycle stands on its own. While there is mention of the worlds of other novels, the stories are only tied tog…moreEach novel and short story in the hainish cycle stands on its own. While there is mention of the worlds of other novels, the stories are only tied together in the sense that they are in the same universe. (less)
José Andrés Order does not really matters. All volumes share a universe and are connected but they are independent. You can read Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipe…moreOrder does not really matters. All volumes share a universe and are connected but they are independent. You can read Wikipedia entry to get some background information. It is a really complex universe and it is difficult to get a global vision of it but, to my understanding, these books are intended to be read as individual, local, personal stories. Hope you enjoy it.

(sorry for my English, it is not my native language)(less)

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Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Birthday of the World and other stories by Ursula K. LeGuin is a beautifully written collection of stories crafted by an artist whose ability to create deeply meaningful speculative fiction has placed her high among peers.

Providing a foreword to her work, LeGuin makes a persuasive case that the collection of short stories should be considered its own genre. While her reasoning makes sense and should be considered, LeGuin really makes her case in the pages that follow. Creating a panorama of
I liked all the stories here, but Paradises Lost I loved. I thought about it since yesterday, and decided to knock this book up from four to five stars because of Paradises Lost, and that's the story I'd like to write about here.

This novella is about a generational ship travelling from Earth to a new, distant planet, to study it and see whether or not it can be colonized. After reading this, I was considering whether such an enterprise would ever be successful, not because of technological limi
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think it’s something of a cliché to say that science fiction is about the here and now. Reading Iain M. Banks or Vernor Vinge, who write (awesome) adventure novels about post humans and super-intelligent computers set in space in the far future, it’s easy to forget just how much light SF can shed on the condition of us earth-bound, unenhanced humans of the early 21st century. And then you read Ursula Le Guin and remember.

For that reason alone, The Birthday of the World is a spectacular book:
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ms. Le Guin is one of a handful of authors I can say that I respect for their integrity in that she wrote in a way that was pure. She did not rely on what was popular at any given time in her long career, nor did she rely on gimmicks or twists in her stories or even a plot with points you could chart. She didn’t try to influence the reader to her way of thinking. She mostly just wanted to express her ideas and allow the reader to think for themselves. She wrote in a variety of genres, a term she ...more
Another one of the Le Guin books that I cherry-picked for stories I had not read before. As always, she brings wry humor or depth or insight or all of the above and more to her work.
Contained here:
Coming of Age in Karhide
The Matter of Seggri
Unchosen Love
Mountain Ways
Old Music and the Slave Women
The Birthday of World
Paradises Lost
HarperCollins E-Book Extras

And what I really read it for were the first six stories, set in the Hainish "universe". I'm sorry, that Mr. Old Music should have had
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I was an anthropology and sociology major at the University of Michigan, and I picked up this book for free at a used book sale. Impressed would be an understatement. Guin's stories are as thorough as the ethnographies that I have to read for my Anthro classes; class, gender, inequality, signification, and more are covered in a writing that envelopes and enchants the reader. My favorite story is "Paradise Lost", a story about the culture and mythology that are created in a space vessel of h ...more
Peter Tillman
Reread (mostly) of Hainish stories (mostly), as my personal memorial to the author, now sadly gone. Some of her very best shorts collected here. TOC and publishing histories of the stories:
Her intro is great! She's told the story before, about the ramshackle construction and spotty history of her Hainish cycle. Or, as she prefers, her Suite of Hainish stories. Since publishers are allergic to Collections of shorts, which indeed don't generally sell well.
Roxana Chirilă
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I initially didn't think I'd love this book as much as I did - but here I am, thrilled and happy.

I don't think there's any story here that I didn't enjoy, and there are a few.

This is a book about sexuality and its social meaning - about what it's like for a society to be composed of members who go into heat once a month and only grow sexual organs then. About what it's like to have four categories of people (two genders, two moieties, which are strange and abstract to describe, but easy enough
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ursula Leguin is a genius at speculative fiction. What she does is create worlds like little tiny machines, with something at the heart of them that drives them differently from ours. Then she starts them and sees where they go, and writes beautiful, beautiful stories about them.

This collection of stories explores a variety of worlds. It takes us back to the world of "The Left Hand of Darkness," where the inhabitants are genderless most of the time, only becoming male or female for short periods
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is listed as Hainish Cycle #10 but I haven't read any of the prior 9 (I know, shame on me) and I had no problem with them. They all focus on different worlds and civilizations, which I assume have at least been touched on within the other Hainish Cycle stories. As per any other collection, I liked some more than others but overall this was one of the best collections I've read. One of these days, I may have to try some of her others.

Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Coming of Age in Karhide" ~ A pretty straightforward title for a pretty straightforward story. If you read The Left Hand of Darkness and wondered about Kemmer and exactly how it worked, this will clarify things. Fascinating.
"The Matter of Seggri" ~ Seggri is a world where the number of females is greater than males to a magnitude of 6. Males are venerated and cosseted and do little more than compete in games and impregnate females. The females do pretty much everything else and, it could be arg
I especially love the Hainish stories in the first half of this book, which are primarily dedicated to exploring sexuality and relationships in different societies. Though I have quibbles with both of them, I also ended up really appreciating "Birthday of the World" and "Paradises Lost", which I think do a really beautiful job of exploring the kind of massive events that change entire societies. I have fond recollections of reading all of these in the past. On the other hand, I have no recollect ...more
Dylan Tomorrow
The Matter of Seggri: I would not have expected this one to floor me that much. That's now already two stories that really hit me emotionally, and I haven't even read all of them yet!(view spoiler) ...more
Shalini Nemo
Coming Age in Karhide - 4/5.

The Matter of Seggri - 4/5. Read this in another collection, but it's still compelling. I still find the in-universe fiction horrifying.

Un Chosen Love - 2/5. While the cultural exploration was interesting, the story itself was boring. Maybe I cannot imagine being unable to walk away, and I found it confusing and irrational.

Mountain Ways - 4/5.

Solitude - 4/5. I didn't like this the first time I read it in another collection. I'm at that point in my life where I underst
That was really fascinating. It was definitely a different approach to science fiction than I've read before - and I'll attribute a good portion of it to the author's gender. The stories are written with a beautiful tenderness, anthropological explorations of unfamiliar worlds and races and relationships, made real through very relatable themes of love and friendship. They're very curious. Some of the worlds are sketchily described, while Paradises Lost, the final story and the longest by far, i ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction, sf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciencefiction
This is a collection of short fiction, 8 stories set in UKL's various worlds and universes. I found them all to be engaging, serious, and good. The first one, Coming of Age in Karhide is set on the world of The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a world I've missed. It was cool to get to revisit it and learn more about the culture of Karhide on Gethen. I won't take you through each story, but suffice it to say that some are sad, others are joyous or funny, but all of them are so very real. The char ...more
Many of these short stories take place in the same universe The Left Hand of Darkness does, but Le Guin goes further in exploring matters to do with sex and love for a few of them. More than just being 'experiments', though, her worlds are complete, organic. You can also picture them growing beyond her, the births and deaths and forests extending beyond what we can see on the page.

What if...

- A marriage were a foursome (a sedoretu with a 'Day' male/female pair and an 'Evening' male/female pair),
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was utterly absorbed in all of the stories in this book. Le Guin is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, and I look forward to reading more. She approaches science fiction like anthropology or ancient history, considering the cultural bases for our identities, inhibitions, and expectations. By inventing, with meticulous and compelling detail, cultures and bodies, she makes the reader reexamine her own frameworks for understanding the world.

Le Guin is also a master of characterization,
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of 1990s novellas and novelettes from Ursula LeGuin. That means they are mostly from the Hainish universe of two of my favorites from her: The Left Hand of Darkness, and Four Ways to Forgiveness. In fact, "Coming of Age in Karhide" is set on Gethen, and "Old Music and the Slave Women" on Werel. The majority of these stories deal with gender roles, but not in that cheap "women:good; men:bad" 1970s fashion. Here we see the interdependent yin and yang of the sexes, albeit in so ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Birthday of the World and Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin is a collection of eight stories and two short essays, afterwords. Six of the stories are from the Hainish cycle. In most collections there is variability. Some stories are better than others. And I guess that's true of this one as well, but I'd be hard pressed to say which one isn't as good as another. They're all good, or very good, or even better. Of the first seven six involve sexuality, and the other one war. The final story, ...more
This is my second attempt at a Ursula K. Le Guin book, and I'm going to give up.

Objectively, I can see how the writing is good and the story lines are interesting and creative, but they just don't interest me that much.

In this collection of short stories, the same themes get played out over and over again. Gender fluidity. Gender imbalance. Non-traditional marriages. One space culture visiting another space culture, and the subsequent fallout.

Additionally, I find it really difficult to become i
Sep 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Usually short story anthologies get a middling rating from me because one or two standouts function as the tent poles. That's not the case here at all- each story is excellent in its own right. I loved learning more about people, places, and cultures in the Hainish Universe. But my favorite story was the multi-generational interstellar starship voyage. Fantastic collection, and a must-read if you've read The Dispossessed or Left Hand of Darkness.
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
I could not finish this book, possibly because it require more attention than I could give it in the Airport and on the plane. The few stories I read did have very interesting exploration of alternative social structures, but the characters lacked depth to me. I am guessing this book would be better the second time around, since I would not have to relearn so many new terms and ideas. It just did not intrigue me enough to give it another shot.
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first story was the weakest, IMO, but after that, they were all fantastic. Highly recommended.
Natalie Bowers
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 stars

One Saturday afternoon, when I was about twelve years old, my dad put a tape in our VCR and pressed play. After the pounding of the 20th Century Fox drums had faded, there was a quiet pause followed by a second dramatic fanfare. (Even now, nearly thirty years later, the sound of it makes my insides tickle with anticipation!) As the trumpets trumpeted, little blue words appeared on a space-blackened screen: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … And thus began my love affair with
I was talking to my friend about Ursula K. Le Guin and he said I had to read this collection, that one of the stories in it had changed his life. Turns out there were so many outstanding stories in The Birthday of the World that I couldn't even hazard a guess as to which one he'd meant. This is some of Le Guin's finest work and although several stories reference her other writings, you don't need to be catch the references to appreciate it.

Le Guin is a master at worldbuilding - building so many
Valentina Salvatierra
A consistently thought-provoking and solidly written collection of short stories, unified I would say by the theme of human relationships, particularly romantic, under the stress of configurations that are unusual for modern Western sensibilities.

The Birthday of the World in its entirety is a good embodiment of Le Guin's stated intention, in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, to tell stories that are not centred on conflict but rather on other types of interacti
Anita Pomerantz
Jul 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Wow - - reading this book is like drinking from a fire-hose. Each of Le Guin's story is, in essence, a mini social commentary, and no topic goes untouched. Sex, politics, the role of gender, religion - - it's all there! Clearly, this woman is a very, very smart individual with a lot to say about the world - - how it is and how it could be. She's also highly imaginative in her approach. These are science fiction stories, and many of them are very clever and use a creative premise to tell their st ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much of science fiction is centered around questions of the non-interpersonal. What if the world ran out of water? Or if we colonized Mars? Or if we could travel through time?

Ursula K. Le Guin (rest her soul) asks some more fundamental questions about ourselves. What if marriages were made of four people instead of two? What if our sexual gender only manifested itself for short periods of time (and we were otherwise largely genderless)? What if God was a marriage between two beings? What if,
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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 Word for World is Forest
  • The Dispossessed

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