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The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

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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 gifted artist returns to these worlds in eight brilliant short works, including a never-before-published novella, each of which probes the essence of humanity.

362 pages, Paperback

First published March 5, 2002

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About the author

Ursula K. Le Guin

938 books24.4k followers
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 was known for her treatment of gender (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Matter of Seggri), political systems (The Telling, The Dispossessed) and difference/otherness in any other form. Her interest in non-Western philosophies was reflected in works such as "Solitude" and The Telling but even more interesting are her imagined societies, often mixing traits extracted from her profound knowledge of anthropology acquired from growing up with her father, the famous anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber. The Hainish Cycle reflects the anthropologist's experience of immersing themselves in new strange cultures since most of their main characters and narrators (Le Guin favoured the first-person narration) are envoys from a humanitarian organization, the Ekumen, sent to investigate or ally themselves with the people of a different world and learn their ways.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 555 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
783 reviews12.5k followers
December 24, 2022
So far, at least, this is the rating and review for the longest piece in this collection, Paradises Lost , one of my favorite novellas, perfectly penned by the true master of thoughtful SF.

Ursula K. Le Guin wrote anthropological science fiction, primarily focusing on people and culture as seen through the lens of SF. Her stories are works of astute observation of the cultures she invented, straddling that thin line between objectivity and subjectivity, examining the biases and diversities and cultural constructs — and trusting her readers to come to conclusions without didactically taking them there. She’s unparalleled at this, and the genius that I’ll never cease to admire, rising above the fads and trends with her clear literary voice.
“To speculate about our destination,” Tan said, “is to increase anxiety, impatience, and erroneous expectations.” He smiled slightly. He spoke slowly, with pauses between sentences. “Our job is to travel. A different job from arrival.” After a pause he went on, “But a generation that knows only how to travel—can they teach a generation how to arrive?”

Space is mind-bogglingly vast, with distances bringing which requires many paltry human lifetimes. and to bring it to more human scale SF often relies on the ways to get humans where they need to go through invention of wormholes, cryosleep, teleportation or faster-than-light travel. In Paradises Lost Le Guin takes a more realistic to science as we know now approach with setting the story on a generation ship, where only remote descendants of those who once had left Earth would get to see the destination.

The “middle generations” spend their entire lives in between the origin and the destination , on what must seem like an eternal journey, knowing only a small confined world of the spaceship, with memory of Earth distant and unreal and the destination too far to really matter. The choice was made for them by the earlier generations to spend their lives as transitional people, confined to a tiny world — or maybe blessed to live in a perfect society. It’s a matter of perspective for many.

What does it do to people and their culture and their beliefs — to have your world reduced to a spacecraft on a journey that was chosen for you by someone else, long ago? Living in the world where things that previous generations had taken for granted simply do not exist.
“Nothing in the world has more or less than two legs. Nothing has wings. Nothing sucks blood. Nothing hides in tiny crevices, waves tendrils, scuttles into shadows, lays eggs, washes its fur, clicks its mandibles, or turns around three times before it lies down with its nose on its tail. Nothing has a tail. Nothing in the world has tentacles or fins or paws or claws. Nothing in the world soars. Nothing swims. Nothing purrs, barks, growls, roars, chitters, trills, or cries repeatedly two notes, a descending fourth, for three months of the year. There are no months of the year. There is no moon. There is no year. There is no sun. Time is divided into lightcycles, darkcycles, and tendays. Every 365.25 cycles there is a celebration and a number called The Year is changed. This Year is 141. It says so on the schoolroom clock.”

New beliefs arise, understandably, in lieu of previous beliefs and knowledge that becomes meaningless when the spaceship becomes your world, population four thousand. How does it feel knowing - or at least being told - that your entire life is meant to be spent in a sort of limbo, in transition between point A and point B, from Origin to Destination? Wouldn’t it become easier for some to dismiss this, instead choosing to believe that the journey is the whole point, that the contained self-regulating world is Heaven already, and that instead of life in transition they are already living the best chosen life?
“For all the middle generations of the two-century voyage, their reason for being was to be alive and well, to keep the ship in good running order, and to furnish it with another generation, so that it could accomplish its mission, their mission, the purpose to which they were all essential. A purpose which had meant so much to the Zeroes, the earthborn. Discovery. Exploration of the universe. Scientific information. Knowledge.

An irrelevant knowledge, useless, meaningless to people living and dying in the closed, complete world of the ship.

What did they need to know that they didn’t know?

They knew that life was inside: light, warmth, breath, companionship. They knew that outside was nothing. The void. Death. Death silent, immediate, absolute.”

We observe the life and culture of the generation ship “Discovery” through the lives and experiences of two people in the Fifth Generation, Hsing and Luis — those of the “middle generations” who are only expected to see the culmination of their journey in their old age, taught how to travel but not how to arrive.

We see the ways and idiosyncrasies of this small, isolated world that is fascinating - in many ways, it is the paradise and utopia the thinkers have been searching for, with no money or waste, but with fascinating relics of ethnic/cultural divisions, repurposed religious views, adapting and changing family structures, with what seems like most of terrestrial problems left behind in mostly forgotten gravity well. It’s lovely and fascinating — and yet meant to be a temporary set-up designed to be shed upon eventual arrival a couple of centuries after departure. And people do not always take kindly to changes in the paradigms of the world. Especially when unexpected developments force changes much sooner than expected.
He wrote: “Life/ship/vehicle/passage: mortal means to immortality (true bliss). Destination metaphorical—for Destination read Destiny. All meaning is inside. Nothing is outside. Outside is nothing. Negation, nil, void: Death. Life is inside. To go outside is denial, is blasphemy.”
“The elementary and high school curriculum had been scarcely altered since Hsing’s and Luis’s schooldays. The most striking change was a decrease in information and discussion concerning both Dichew and Shindychew. Children now in school spent very little time learning about the planets of origin and destination. Language concerning them was vague, with a curiously remote tone. In two recent texts Luis had found the phrase, “the planetary hypothesis.”
“But in 43.5 years we will arrive at one of these hypotheses,” Luis said. “What are we going to make of it?”

It’s a marvelous story of the observational nature, lacking the dramatic conflicts and resolutions that we expect for our reading satisfaction. Where you’d expect a tale of insurrection, persecution, resistance based on the conflicts described, Le Guin instead shows us quiet resolutions, compromises and decisions that to me seem very appropriate for a small set of people who for several generations were raised in the spirit of coexistence and mutual assistance. There’s no fireworky climax — just a quiet, thoughtful continuation of the themes Le Guin is so good at.

It’s a story of humans first and foremost, laid out on a realistically believable space travel scenario, and it still captivates me just as it did the first time I read it.

5 stars.
“My grandfather's grandfather walked under the heaven.
That was another world.

When I am a grandmother, they say, I may walk under heaven
On another world.

But I am living my life now joyously in my world
Here in the middle of heaven.”


Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
December 6, 2019
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 humanity with frank sexuality and sincere emotion, LeGuin again creates a speculative fiction work that transcends that genre and bridges the gap with works that evoke human behavior, group dynamics, cultural and social foundations. Science fiction may be her medium, but the result of her craft is fiction that resonates with what it means to be a man and a woman.

"Coming of Age in Karhide" was first published in 1995 and takes place on Gethen the planet of The Left Hand of Darkness, part of LeGuin’s Hainish cycle. Fans of TLHOD will recall that the hermaphroditic Gethenians are either male or female during a monthly phase called kemmer. LeGuin uses this setting as a further exploration of that creation and also as a transcendent means of expressing a uniquely human experience either from a man or woman’s perspective.

"The Matter of Seggri" first released in 1994 and also in LeGuin’s Hain universe, this is a deeply personal, introspective description of alteration and renewal.

"Unchosen Love" – another exploration of sexuality and also from 1994. Set on the planet O where society is structured around the sedoretu - a marriage involving four people. LeGuin uses this unusual arrangement to examine cultural and group dynamics and also to demonstrate that human nature does not change, regardless of social convention.

"Mountain Ways" another story from the planet O and about the strange institution of the sedoretu, this complicated but charming story of love in the face of cultural prohibitions serves as a vehicle for LeGuin to subtly but demonstrably shine a revealing light on arbitrary and senseless barriers to individuality and genuine human emotion.

"Solitude" – set in the outer limits of human civilization, LeGuin defines individuality and yet also shows how a human must have interaction and relationship, even if stretched to its farthest extremities.

"Old Music and the Slave Women" a quietly strong story about slavery, dignity, bravery and standing against a grievance that has become ingrained in society. This is LeGuin as a Goya like artist, painting a painful scene that needs to be shown.

"The Birthday of the World" the titular story is from 2000 and tales a story in the Hainish style though the planet is never clearly identified. Told from the perspective of an old woman looking back to important events from when she was young, this describes a world where society has created a situation where a royal family has come to be worshipped as, and to believe itself to be, deity. This is reminiscent of an Egyptian or Incan culture, and gives LeGuin the opportunity to examine and scrutinize the rationality and power of theological belief.

"Paradises Lost" – my favorite and a new publication. Vaguely reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Destination: Void, this explores the voyage of a generational ship. Science fiction writers have long taken the easy way out in distant space travel by concocting “wormholes” or “warp space” or whatever. LeGuin considers the human cost on a voyage meant to take 200 years to complete and especially the impact on the middle generations, those whose life is expected to be made up entirely of journey, never expected to reach a destination. Poignant, though provoking and epitomizing LeGuin’s inimitable ability to accurately portray human emotion, “Paradises Lost” stands atop this elite collection to highlight the author’s unquestioned ability to construct a glimpse of our soul.

Profile Image for Maria.
79 reviews73 followers
April 15, 2018
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 limitations, but rather if human nature would be doomed to compromise it.

We get to know a bit about the ships history, but the main focus lies on the fifth generation to live on the ship. The technological aspects of the ship works very well, people are safe and comfortable, they have never known cold or hunger or thirst or just being really tired after a long day of physical labor. They always walk barefoot, and children are naked, because their environment perfectly accommodates human needs and wants.

In one way they're very smart people, but at the same time very naive. They cannot imagine the hardships of colonizing a new planet. Or even of living without walls around them all the time. They cannot even imagine clouds, wind, sky. They know in theory what these things are, but have no feel for them. There are several very interesting paragraphs about what "nature" "human nature" civilization" and "control" really mean, seen from the perspective of people who have never set foot on a place with wild nature, but always been confined to a human-made environment.

In a way they are institutionalized. Some of them starts to think that "the departure" and "the arrival" are metaphorical concepts, and the only things that exists are the ship and the voyage. This is also a story about the power of religion or the danger of cults. The generational ship started out as a mostly atheistic enterprise - how to deal with startup religions is even laid down in their constitution. But maybe it's ingrained in human nature to search for something to believe in? And how all this played out on an isolated, generational ship was completely fascinating to read about.

Towards the end, I had this dark, nervous feeling inside me that went something like "Will the remnants of of the clear, scientific, sensible minds that first left Earth still be strong enough to win out over the crazies?" The power struggle and political/religious scheming, based on manipulating people's world view, really got to me. This story shows the struggle between different sides of the human mind, and that made it profound in a way few authors can manage. Like in so many of her works, it's Le Guin's anthropological and philosophical mind that makes Paradises Lost shine.
Profile Image for John.
282 reviews65 followers
February 16, 2011
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: each of these stories is set in a society where an alien biology or social/cultural stricture dramatizes some pretty fundamental aspects of the human condition, mainly gender roles, relationships, sex, and sexuality (because what’s more fundamental, really?).

“Coming of Age in Karhide,” which is set in the same world as Left Hand of Darkness, is the first person reminiscence of a Gethenian’s first time in kemmer. But where Left Hand of Darkness was pretty chaste, describing the process by which the androgynous Gethenians temporarily develop sexual organs during kemmer, “Coming of Age in Karhide” takes us inside the Kemmer house and does not shrink from graphic descriptions of what goes on there.

I remember a short while after finishing Left Hand of Darkness the first time I started looking at people differently, trying to force myself to see men or women just as people in a temporarily sexual state who will shortly return to androgyny. It was a pretty revelatory thought experiment: seeing gender as something you move into or out of like that can really make plain all the many hidden ways looking at someone as a man or woman shapes your perception and colors your judgment of them. Kemmer has to be one of the best thought experiments to come from science fiction.

In kemmer, both sexes can be found in the same person. In a few of these stories, though, the sexes are about as far apart as is possible. “The Matter of Seggri” is set on a world where men and women live wholly separate lives, women in small medieval-style villages, men in castles, where they spend their lives competing in sports games for social status. The men sell themselves to the women for sex, and apart from those brief commercial encounters, and from the public games where the woman watch the men compete, men and women lead wholly separate lives. At first it seems like women are marginalized on this world, but it soon becomes clear that they are the real participants in society. This is an extreme dramatization of the way woman in societies on our world have often been pushed to the margins of society where their only role is procreation and competing with one another for status (i.e. Mad Men).

“Solitude” is another, very different, story where the sexes lead wholly separate lives. In a primitive, post-collapse society, women live together in “auntrings” where everyone keeps very much to themselves. The men live semi-solitary lives in the forests at the periphery of auntrings, and their courtship involves the women leaving the auntring and hunting for men for brief encounters. Nothing in this society precludes semi-monogamous relationships, but people are just happier on their own. A small part of me wants to live there right now.

This is just the setting, of course—Le Guin is too good a writer to give us just the trimmings of the world without a story, and her stories are not just ciphers for her intricate and strange societies. In “Solitude,” for instance, we get the story of a mother who takes her young children to an “auntring,” since no one in the auntring really talks to anyone but children, this is her only chance to learn about this society. The effects on the children, the youngest in particular, are predictable.

The strongest (and longest) work in this collection is “Paradise Lost,” a novella about the voyage of a generation ship bound for an earth-like planet. In a ship where five generations have lived knowing nothing of life outside of it, the society on the ship evolves a spiritual system that redefines their purpose as perpetual ship life. Apart from being an illustration of how spirituality evolves in societies as something of a coping mechanism, “Paradise Lost” is also one of the more believable stories of the generation ship sub-genre. Once the ship reaches its destination it’s hard not to suppress a feeling of joy, even through the successive hardships of life on the new planet. It’s a sad and joyful story, and it has a kind of wise maturity to it that science fiction could definitely use more of.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,682 reviews347 followers
November 12, 2021
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: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?1...
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. I'll add stories as I read them, so this will take awhile

• Coming of Age in Karhide • (1995) • novelette. All the Stars! This was written as a companion-piece to "Left Hand of Darkness", to better explicate the anthropology of Gethen/Winter and its almost-human inhabitants. Who are not homo saps -- we are the exceptions in the world of mammals, being permanently in kemmer -- a perversion, to their eyes. What's the story about? Exactly what it says. Ah, here's a copy online:

"... as a child I was a member of a flock, a school; a swarm, in and out of our warren of rooms, tearing up and down the staircases, working together and learning together and looking after the babies—in our own fashion—and terrorizing quieter hearthmates by our numbers and our noise. As far as I know we did no real harm. ..."
“Sov,” my mother said, sitting down beside me on my bed, with a curious, tender, complicitous smile, “shall we choose your kemmerday?”
“I’m not in kemmer,” I said passionately.
“Sometimes do you feel like your tits are on fire?” I asked without knowing that I was going to say anything.
Sether nodded.

After a while, Sether said, “Listen, does your pisser get…”
I nodded.

“It must be what the Aliens look like,” Sether said with revulsion. “This, this thing sticking out, it gets so big … it gets in the way.”

Boy, can she write! Le Guin's stories don't get much better than this. And here it is, one click away! What are you waiting for?

• The Matter of Seggri (1993) • novelette. Winner of the Tiptree Award, 1994. Seggri is a warped world, where women are 90% of the population, men around 10%, apparently from some long-ago genetic manipulation of Human stock. In the story, the Seggri people are contacted by the Ekumen, and eventually the extreme segregation of women and men begins to break down. The story is a series of vignettes of variously-damaged people, especially men. Another remarkable story of anthropological SF: 4.5 stars.

The Wikipedia page (caution: SPOILERS) has considerable detail and academic analyses: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mat...

• Unchosen Love • (1994) • novelette. Excerpt from story: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Birthday... (scroll down)
"Sex, for everybody, on every world, is a complicated business, but nobody seems to have complicated marriage quite as much as my people have. To us, of course, it seems simple, and so natural that it's foolish to describe it, like trying to describe how we walk, how we breathe. Well, you know, you stand on one leg and move the other one forward... you let the air come into your lungs and then you let it out... you marry a man and woman from the other moiety...
A moiety is half a population. We call our two halves the Morning and the Evening. If your mother's a Morning woman, you're a Morning person; and all Morning people are in certain respects your brother or sister. You have sex, marry, have children only with Evening people.

When I explained our concept of incest to a fellow student on Hain, she said, shocked, "But that means you can't have sex with half the population!" And I in turn said, shocked, "Do you *want* sex with half the population?"

• Mountain Ways • (1996) • novelette.
UKL: "Note for readers unfamiliar with the planet O:
Ki'O society is divided into two halves or moieties, called (for ancient religious reasons) the Morning and the Evening. You belong to your mother's moiety, and you can't have sex with anybody of your moiety.
Marriage on O is a foursome, the sedoretu — a man and a woman from the Morning moiety and a man and a woman from the Evening moiety. You're expected to have sex with both your spouses of the other moiety, and not to have sex with your spouse of your own moiety. So each sedoretu has two expected heterosexual relationships, two expected homosexual relationships, and two forbidden heterosexual relationships.

The expected relationships within each sedoretu are:
The Morning woman and the Evening man (the "Morning marriage")
The Evening woman and the Morning man (the "Evening marriage")
The Morning woman and the Evening woman (the "Day marriage")
The Morning man and the Evening man (the "Night marriage")

The forbidden relationships are between the Morning woman and the Morning man, and between the Evening woman and the Evening man, and they aren't called anything, except sacrilege.
It's just as complicated as it sounds, but aren't most marriages?"

Akal is a woman pretending to be a man, so that she can marry her girlfriend and true love Shahe in the moiety four-way marriage (sedoretu) favored in Ki'O society. She & Shahe conspire to hide Akal's deception until after the marriage, especially from Otorra, the man she/he would be required by convention to have sex with, planning to tell him (later!) that he/she doesn't like sex with men. If you know Le Guin, you can probably sense her setup, but it's still fun: Otorra is hesitant about the marriage, because 4+ stars, bonus for UKL's clever gaming of the system.

• Solitude • (1994) • novelette.
• Old Music and the Slave Women • (1999) • novella. "Old Music and the Slave Women" (1999) continues the unhappy history of Werel and Yeowe, begun in Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995). "Old Music" is the Ekumenical intelligence officer for the Embassy to Werel. Sick of being cooped-up -- the embassy was sealed early in the civil war -- he arranges a clandestine visit to the Liberation rebels, but is captured and imprisoned by a faction of the slaveholding Legitimate Government....

UKL likes to play with skin colors (and sex roles, and stereotypes...) -- on Werel, the masters are black (but not African), the rebels and slaves white (but not European). An easy five stars, an exceptional story, not to be missed. Not online, that I could find

(to be con'd, in due time: came due)
Profile Image for Donna.
543 reviews182 followers
December 31, 2019
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 wasn’t fond of, but she is best known for her work in science fiction and fantasy. Her stories in that genre are character and idea driven and challenge the way we see ourselves and our world by examining other worlds and the cultures that inhabit them.

This collection of eight thought-provoking stories is no exception to the above. Most of the stories have appeared previously and separately in other publications, except for the last one. The first seven relate back to her Hainish Cycle series, of which this book is a part of, though in a loose way. Most of these stories were four star reads for me, stories that challenged my ideas about gender, marriage, societal structure, belief systems, and more. Standouts in the collection include “Unchosen Love” with its unexpected story element that gave me chills at the end, and “Old Music and The Slave Women,” a tale of survival in both body and spirit under extreme circumstances. But all of them were good and really had me thinking, and by the end, feeling something, whether it was sadness or gladness.

Slowly, I plan to continue reading the rest of this series and other works by the author. Most of her books aren’t ones I’d call exciting, so if you read them, don’t expect a thrill ride in which your heart races. But they’ll leave you with a buzz in your head from all the thinking you’ll be doing, both during and long after you’ve finished them. And if you’re lucky, they might even leave you with a flutter in your heart, something that lasts longer than a racing pulse.
Profile Image for Lost Planet Airman.
1,250 reviews73 followers
December 17, 2019
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 to go through what he did for the sake of this telling.

The Birthday of the World offered a semi-historical, semi-fantasy look at the end of an empire, and Paradises Lost gave a nice counterpoint to the (more testoster-ony) Heinleinean Orphans of the Sky.
Profile Image for Tunde.
4 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2007
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 humans travelling for generations towards a destination set by people who have been long dead. With none of the original people, the memory of Earth becomes more and more alien, and the quiet isolation of the ship entropies the spirit of discovery and adventure, transformed into a religion about the endless journey as the end goal of humanity. A simply amazing story.
Profile Image for Roxana Chirilă.
1,041 reviews138 followers
October 17, 2017
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 to understand) and needing one of each type to complete a marriage.

This is also a book about a society of introverts who meditate, building their souls, not caring about science and the outside world. It's a book about people on a spaceship, travelling through space for generations, never knowing what it's like to be under the open sky.

It's about religion and spirituality, as well - how they appear in likely and unlikely places, in likely and unlikely forms, and they intertwine with science and visitors from other worlds.

It's a book about many things, but what I enjoyed most is the careful detail, the consideration Ursula K. Le Guin showed in crafting the worlds and creating her characters and their situations. The plots are perhaps less strong, but that only allows the atmosphere to be more pervasive, the worlds to grow larger and stronger.

You can feel the anthropological influence here, the exploration of unknown societies, their rules, their rituals, their beliefs. The science part of this science fiction isn't physics or chemistry, it's the study of the other, of the way biology and culture shape our views and values.

And the prose is beautiful.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
628 reviews22 followers
November 4, 2008
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 of time, and explores how exactly that works in a coming-of-age story. She writes a sequence about a world in which there are 16 women to each man, exploring the anguish and pain the social customs that developed cause people. In one of my favorites, she creates a world entirely of introverts, a world with no "people," only "persons" who meet only briefly and speak only rarely. She gives us a world where marriages are made in sets of four people, two men and two women (each member has one male lover, one female lover, and one taboo opposite-sex partner), and delicately explores the complications of such an arrangement. And she goes back to the world of "Four Ways to Forgiveness" to explore slavery again in a truly heartbreaking story filled with echoes both of American slavery and atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

LeGuin's writing is notable for both its deep and humane compassion and its unflinching clarity of vision. Each story has a bleak tenderness at its heart, a true love for each character and a deep grief for the limitations of humanity. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Rinaldo.
259 reviews52 followers
October 3, 2020

This is the final collection of Hainish Cycle, although two of the stories don't take place in the Hainish/Ekumen universe. However, the eight stories in this collection share similar themes: different models of kinship, family/generational issues, changing (or unchanging) aspects of societies, and often sexual relationships.

“But a generation that knows only how to travel — can they teach a generation how to arrive?”

Coming of Age in Karhide - 3.75/5
An adorable story of coming of age for Gethenians, the people of Gethen from The Left Hand of Darkness. Gethenians have both sexual organs by default. It's fascinating how they go through growing pains similar yet so different to humans during adolescence. They go through the monthly sexual phase of, called kemmer, where they would assume one of the sexes. Preteenagers, who undergo physical and psychological changes, not unlike humans, often see kemmer as something disgusting and savage.

The story also offers the flip side of the coin; the complexity and the beauty of communal building for kemmer called kemmerhouse. We didn't get to see the interiors in TLHoD, but here we see the inside for the first time from the POV of a Gethenian teenager. However, some subject matters like incest are still iffy to me.

The Matter of Seggri - 4.5/5
This is a beautiful collection of short stories (an amusing concept since this book itself is a short story collection) about the history of gender roles of Planet Seggri, with some degree of Ekumen presence. Le Guin built a flawed but nuanced misandrist society setting in this one, revealing how appalling our own society's misogyny is in the process. Some things are similar, how one gender represses another, but it is also more nuanced how homosexual relationships are viewed in society. There are some parallels to Suffragette movement in this story, but Le Guin handled the themes of empowerment and agency with so much humanity and compassion I cried at the end. I wish this was a full novel instead, Seggri is such an interest setting.

Unchosen Love - 3/5
Another excellent study of anthropology and kinship system/moiety. The marriage union in O is comprised of 4 persons, a pair of man and woman from Morning moiety, and a pair of man and woman from Evening moiety. Each person has a sexual relationship from the opposite moiety, but same moiety relationship is considered worse than incest in this setting. It makes an intriguing family-society drama but I personally want more of Ekumen presence here. I also feel the ending too rushed and lacking the usual Le Guin's thoughtfulness.

Mountain Ways - 3/5
I'm not too sure what to feel about this one either. This one shares the same setting with the previous story, and the exploration of a taboo within moiety and marriage of Ki'O is still interesting; how people keep secrets and react to subtleties... An Evening woman masquerades as an Evening man so she could form sedoretu (4-ways marriage) with her Morning woman partner. As the consequence, they have to lie to the couple of Evening woman and Morning man they plan to marry. However, like the previous story, I feel the ending here is also too abrupt, not to mention ambiguous. Or maybe I'm just not good at reading implications...

Solitude - 4.25/5
Another excellent exercise of speculative anthropology. The story explores the notion of individuality between different cultures, also the third culture children. A Hainish scientist disguises herself and her children to observe a primitive society of Eleven-Soro. As an adult, she finds it hard to penetrate the thick cultural wall where adults are not supposed to teach other adults, and adult interactions are kept to a minimum. Her children thrive better since they are expected to interact and learn from the adults but as the consequences, they undergo identity crisis as the third culture kids.

I think one of the main strengths of Le Guin's story is how she handled the complex nuances of society with compassion and humility. Whenever an advanced society interacts with a less advanced one, it is too easy to depict one as the more superior civilisation. Le Guin managed to put more nuance and made the reader reserve judgements regarding what is considered primitive. Sometimes, advancement and social circles are a matter of choice, and solitude might be simply an alternative model of society.

Old Music and the Slave Woman - 3/5
A story taking place during the slave Liberation on Planet Werel from Four Ways to Forgiveness. True to Le Guin's usual revolution plot, the main character here, Old Music, an Ekumen envoy, gets caught and tortured. He has little to no agency to influence or change the happenings around him, as he's drifting through bloody political turbulence. All he could do is to observe and advise people around him.

This story sheds light to the complexity and ugliness of revolutions, where innocent people become victims and factions entangle in an ugly mess. Still, compared to the usual Le Guin, this one feels weaker.

The Birthday of the World - 3/5
A story about the first contact with heavy fantasy elements. I could see why Le Guin didn't categorise this as a part of the Hainish Cycle. While there were obvious shared ancestors between the people and the aliens, the behaviour of the aliens is so different from typical Ekumenical Observers and Envoys. Unless if one considers this as an early interaction of Ekumen, then that might work to some degree. In any case, it's not the strongest story in this collection.

Paradise Lost - 4.75
An excellent story to end this collection. Imagine if Axiom people of WALL-E didn't get manipulated into sedentary, immobile society. Imagine if the return to the Earth is more bitter and full of hardships.

In Paradise Lost 4000-something people are living in the Discovery a generational ship heading to a theoretically habitable planet labelled Shindychew or the New Earth. The problem is, there is no cryogenic sleep, and the population must live throughout the projected 200 years of travel, which translate to roughly 6 generations.

This raises some thought-provoking scenarios: how the society must live in a closed system equilibrium, how the uncertainty of the destination affects their way of thinking, how the system of family and sexual relationship is heavily controlled and regulated, and how the middle generations find themselves in an existential crisis of purpose. The loose connection with Discovery and Earth is also interesting since it captures the complexity of diaspora, where the diaspora communities are progressively drifting and changing further from the motherland. Customs changes, civilisation changes, and even speech changes.

The theme and retelling of Paradise Lost are apt and intriguing since it depicts the Discovery as possibly the current paradise, while Shindychew is the flawed and dangerous place of exile. Ultimately, some choices have to be made, and people have to live with the consequences. Staying in Discovery means living with the promise that at some point the ship will stop functioning in the outer space while migrating permanently to Shindychew means relearning everything about life and leaving the safety and comfort of the closed system.

This story is near perfect in my book, and in my opinion, it deserves to carry the titular The Birthday of the World label instead of the previous story. Still, I observe that Le Guin, despite her usual tact and keen observation, often failed to capture the complexity and nuance of non-Western societies. The depiction of ancestral cultures of some people on Discovery is still somewhat monolithic and two-dimensional. I think this story could work so much better has it been an origin story for the first Hainish effort to reconnect with other planets.

Finishing this book gave me a bittersweet feeling of finishing the Hainish Cycle. I am not officially done as there are other short stories and earlier novels that I might visit someday in the future, but reading through the main bodies of the Cycle made me rethink my perception on so many aspects of society: kinship, gender, possession, language, culture, history, agency, and so many others.

He mentally perceived words as having various sizes, densities, depths; words were dark stars, some small and dull and solid, some immense, complex, subtle, with a powerful gravity-field that attracted infinite meanings to them. Freedom was the biggest of the dark stars.”
Profile Image for Lobo.
634 reviews75 followers
January 2, 2023
Dzień dobry, nowy rok zaczynam od pracy nad tekstem o wątkach antropologicznych u Le Guin. "Urodziny świata" są pod tym względem świetnym materiałem do analizy, połowa opowiadań w tomie to raporty dla Ekumeny, pisane z antropologicznym zacięciem. Pierwszy raz ten tom czytałam w liceum i to parokrotnie, głównie przez dzikie pragnienie queerowych treści, a tutaj Le Guin skupia się w znacznej mierze na relacjach jednopłciowych. Powrót do lektury mogę tylko porównać z tym miłym uczuciem, że od dawna nienoszone stare dżinsy wciąż pasują, a nawet dobrze leżą. Ekumena jest dla mnie krajem pochodzenia, chociaż a) nigdy tam nie byłam i b) nie istnieje. Ale moi ludzie to lud(y) Ekumeny, ci z O i z Gethen. I cieszę się, że po latach wciąż znam drogę do domu.
Profile Image for Dylan.
79 reviews76 followers
March 2, 2016
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!

When I am a grandmother, they say, I may walk under heaven, On another world.

Paradises Lost: This story ... so many feels!!!
Profile Image for Loreley.
371 reviews88 followers
June 12, 2022
ნახევარზე მეტი ს��ვა კრებულებში მქონდა წაკითხული და დარჩენილი ჩავამთვრე ახლა. ზუსტად მერე დავაჯამებ მაგრამ ზეპირად 4.5 გამომივიდა, ძალიან კარგი მოთხრობები შედის
Profile Image for Rose.
795 reviews47 followers
August 14, 2017
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.

Profile Image for Juushika.
1,561 reviews166 followers
October 11, 2022
Eight short works, largely set within the vast Hainish universe. It's rare to see such a consistently successful short story collection--there are no duds, and five of the eight are particularly good, which is a remarkable ratio. The vignettes in "The Matter of Seggri" bring a necessary, multifaceted view to an erstwhile monoculture. "Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways" are both set on the planet O and explore the complexity of four-partner marriages--meaty worldbuilding, emotionally satisfying, and hardcore id-fic. "Old Music and the Slave Women" is also printed in Five Ways to Forgiveness and I loved it there and here--it's harrowing and indelible. Paradises Lost is a novella set on a generation ship, and while I'd argue that it isn't as unique as Le Guin expresses in her introduction, it's a smart and solid approach to a trope that I adore. The stories are concentrated and satisfying, balanced against highly speculative worldbuilding. I think I may like it more than the Hainish novels themselves.

But what really makes this collection special is that stories frequently focus on people and relationships which complicate the rules. Take the stories set on O, where the reader learns the taboos that govern four-way marriages via characters whose desires violate those same taboos. It introduces compelling tension, and it's the answer to every monoculture or otherwise artificially uniform, structured speculative society--including those in Le Guin's own work. It can never go far enough, and I particularly wish that the gender binary weren't a reoccurring assumption in her work and/or that Le Guin had returned Gethen as The Left Hand of Darkness grew dated. But the delight of reading the entire Hainish bibliography (a collection of books always in conversation with themselves, contradicting, expanding, building a universe of diverse humanity) is watching Le Guin's worldbuilding speculation grow increasingly diverse as her worldview grew more diverse. She never stagnated. I wish she'd given us another dozen books, another hundred, to see how far she could go--but what we have is incredible.
Profile Image for Muriel (The Purple Book Wyrm).
289 reviews71 followers
January 25, 2022
More accurate rating: 9/10.

Full video review: https://youtu.be/yc1IhvG40KU.

Yup, this is still my favourite short story collection written by Ursula K. LeGuin. I'm also happy to report I enjoyed a couple of the stories in this collection more this second time around (considering I re-read this 11 years later as a full adult, this makes sense really). There's just something about LeGuin's writing that feels cozy, familiar and wonderfully nourishing. The endings of her stories just always land so perfectly (or near enough to it) for me too, and I will never tire of the way she approached and invited the reader to think about gender, race, sexuality, personhood, humanity, etc... There's a lot of texture and nuance there; a lot of heart and brain food one can revisit, again and again, along the span of one's life. Or at least that's how I feel about it. 😊

*Individual ratings:

- Coming of Age in Karhide: 8.5/10
- The Matter of Seggri: 10/10
- Unchosen Love: 7.5/10
- Mountain Ways: 8/10
- Solitude: 9/10
- Old Music and the Slave Women: 7.5/10
- The Birthday of the World: 6.5/10
- Paradise Lost: 8.5/10

*Yeah, the overall rating is actually higher than the average of all the individual ratings... Because that's just how I'm feeling it: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts sometimes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Profile Image for Shalini Nemo.
250 reviews34 followers
October 8, 2018
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 understand at last what le Guin was trying to say. It makes sense; I don't feel that the concept is entirely good or healthy, but it makes sense.

Old Music and the Slave Women - 4/5. This was very uncomfortable, but compelling.

The Birthday of the World - 4/5. Interesting cultural study.

Paradises Lost - 1/5. I found this too boring and meandering, and did not feel the need to finish it, as I stopped caring about halfway through.

Overall 4/5, because the good stuff is good.
Profile Image for Angela.
416 reviews9 followers
October 11, 2017
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 immersed into a story when the author makes up multiple words and places, and jumps right in expecting the reader to instantly know what the author is talking about. Gethen. Ekumen. Karhide. I felt like I was being punished for not being a die hard Le Guin fan an thus not running across these terms previously.
Profile Image for Kaa.
564 reviews50 followers
June 9, 2019
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 recollection of ever having read "Old Music and the Slave Women" before, and I didn't enjoy it any more than the other Yeowe/Werel stories that make up the story suite Five Ways to Forgiveness.
Profile Image for Librukie.
536 reviews312 followers
October 21, 2021

"Aprendí que la historia no tiene comienzo y que ninguna historia tiene final. Que la historia está toda desordenada, está toda en la mitad. Que la historia nunca es verdad, pero que la mentira es en realidad hija del silencio"

Una antología imprescindible de Úrsula, en la que se recogen varios relatos de la autora pertenecientes al Ciclo de Hainish, es decir, todos pertenecen al género de ciencia ficción. A través de estos relatos podemos vislumbrar la increíble capacidad imaginativa de Le Guin, su maestría a la hora de crear nuevas sociedades con religiones, cultura y comportamientos sociales totalmente diferentes entre sí. En muchos de sus ensayos la autora habla precisamente de lo importante que es la imaginación para las personas, y es innegable que en ella desborda.
Pero en sus mundos no podemos encontrar solo culturas que nos son totalmente ajenas, sino que también hay situaciones que podemos vivir la nuestra propia, que la autora extrapola y usa como crítica social. La palabra "superficial" desde luego pocas veces va a describir la obra de Úrsula, que se caracteriza por ser rompedora, esconder profundas reflexiones sobre el comportamiento y los roles humanos y tiene un estilo que a mi particularmente me parece que roza en muchas ocasiones lo poético.

Todos los relatos me han parecido geniales, pero tengo que destacar especialmente dos de ellos que creo que le hacen un poquito de sombra al resto:

- La cuestión de Seggri, que nos cuenta la evolución de una sociedad en la proporción de habitantes es de 17 mujeres por cada hombre. Eso hace que las mujeres tengan el poder, mientras que los hombres, a pesar de teóricamente ser tratados como "tesoros escasos", sean realmente privados de su libertad y educación, siendo considerados como simples sementales.

- Paraísos perdidos, que podría considerarse también como una novela corta, si no me equivoco el relato más largo de toda la antología. Narra el viaje de una nave con un grupo de personas procedentes de una Tierra decadente hacia la colonización de un nuevo mundo. Sin embargo, durante el largo viaje transcurrirán varias generaciones, y la mentalidad de las mismas irá cambiando, lo que puede hacer peligrar el objetivo de la misión: Encontrarle al ser humano un nuevo hogar.

Si hay algo que me ha llamado mucho la atención ya no solo en estos relatos, sino en toda la obra de Le Guin, es como el Ekumen va moldeando sin quererlo todos aquellos planetas y sociedades a los que toca. Siempre afirman ser neutrales y no querer influir el devenir de las sociedades de los distintos planetas, pero ya simplemente con el contacto de estas con ellos, su destino suele cambiar radicalmente.

En definitiva... Creo que cualquier amante de la autora va a disfrutar esta antología. Por mi parte, queda totalmente recomendada.
Profile Image for Sarah Cavar.
Author 11 books170 followers
August 23, 2022
A spectacular, profoundly existential collection to be savored and studied. Worldbuilding with Le Guin always feels collective, a partnership between her imagination and mine. In that way, her stories become all the more tender, real, and difficult to wake from.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
502 reviews69 followers
February 23, 2021
Such a strong collection of Ekumen stories - and other scifi. I had read half of them before but they definitely were worth a re-read. Le Guin is a master teller and her curiosity and willingness to explore social constructs, gender and sexuality will never be tiring. The weakest story imo is actually the last one, which also lends its title to this collection, but it still deserves 5 stars.
Profile Image for Emily.
804 reviews118 followers
March 5, 2012
"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 argued, hold all the power in the society. However, when the Ekumen arrive, the world has to decide whether the way they've always done things will continue. A very interesting thought experiment, but also really sad.
"Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways" take place on the planet O, where, in addition to genders, the people also have moieties and enter into marriages in groups of four, two of each gender and two of each moiety. The planet was first featured in the title story of A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, and LeGuin writes in the forward of this book that she did so much work in hashing out the system of relationships that she had to revisit it and explore the complications further. "Unchosen Love" explores what happens when the foursome is made up of two strong twosomes that have to learn to love each other's partners as well in order to make the relationship work. It's also about being a stranger in a strong society and moving somewhere one doesn't feel comfortable in order to stay with his lover. "Mountain Ways" focuses on what happens when, because of a smaller population, a fourth for a relationship is not easily found, but an unsuitable partner is readily available and desired. Again, fascinating. I just love LeGuin's societal and relational experiments. They don't even need to have a plot, just exploring the society is enough, but as a bonus, they do and it's entirely satisfying.
"Solitude" ~ The Ekumen goes to learn about a new planet, but are having a very hard time connecting with the denizens. An enterprising woman decides to bring her kids down to the surface hoping that they'll be allowed to learn from the adults and pass the information back to the stabiles on Hain. The unfortunate consequence of the children growing up on the planet is that they might internalize the teachings and want to stay. The way of life itself on the world is intriguing. I'd like to learn how to starwatch myself.
"Old Music and the Slave Woman" ~ In her book Four Ways to Forgiveness, LeGuin brought us to the joint worlds of Werel and Yeowe who were going through a slave revolution. Old Music was a character that appeared in that book, but was sort of auxiliary. Here, he gets his own tale, having to really get in deep with the folks he's been observing for over 35 years, and becoming a pawn in their power struggle. I'm glad we got to revisit this character, and find out how the revolution is getting on.
"The Birthday of the World" ~ I wasn't as big of a fan of this one. The local religion is the main focus, as well as a power grab. It had a pretty funny punchline, if you will, but the buildup wasn't really worth it.
"Paradises Lost" ~ Almost novella-length, this was the best part of the book for me. I love, love, love stories about colony ships. The description of the ship processes, the relationship of the main characters, and the governing body of the ship's people were almost as enthralling as the main conflict which had to do with a religion devised by the ship's passengers. This is a commentary on how people seem to need something to believe in, even though their ancestors were the most logical and intelligent the world had to offer at the time, and the ship's governing body was formed with a strict attention to the separation of church and state. So, so good.
Profile Image for Robert.
817 reviews44 followers
August 13, 2017
Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Sooooo goooooood!

When I learned that Le Guin's father was an anthropologist it explained a huge amount to me. Her SF "what ifs" aren't much along the lines of "what if there was magic goo that could make and fix everything?" or "what if aliens built an interstellar subway system then disappeared?" They are more along the lines of, "what if the female:male ration was 1:16 instead of 1:1?" or "what if most people were bi-sexual, with a minority of heterosexuals?" or "what would the religion of people on a generation ship be like?" or "what if everybody was an introvert?" Not much about technology, a lot about society.

All of these stories are excellent. In my experience it's unusual for the standard of a short collection to be so uniform (and high).

Serious spoilers for one story ahead.

The one that I want to discuss is the novella, Paradises Lost. It's a generation ship tale, putting it square in the mainstream of SF and inviting comparison with all the other such tales there have been over the decades. Earth's major religions are represented upon launch but five generations in, they have faded away, shorn of their context and therefore relevance and supporting societies. However, a new religion arises that threatens the mission, because it suggests that only the ship is real and it's Heaven.

Le Guin seems to be saying that religion is an invention that en mass humans can't do without and that it fulfills some kind of psychological need to explain and make bearable one's circumstances - and that just as inevitably people will opportunistically use it to try to gain power over others.

In Le Guin's made up situation, the fictional religion gives greater meaning to the lives of people who's function is merely to produce the next generation and keep them alive for an event they will either be too old or too dead to fully participate in themselves (arrival at the Destination). That meaning is that the journey is the genuinely important thing and actually arrival is undesirable.

To have validity, this theory must apply to real religions. I can figure it out with regard to Christianity. It's the religion of the poor and oppressed: never mind your poverty and powerlessness in this life, in the next, eternal one, you will be rewarded with endless bliss in Heaven while your rich oppressors are eternally punished in Hell. The pantheistic "spirit of place" religions such as that of the pagan Celts or of Japanese Shinto also make sense in the contexts in which they arose - an apparently incomprehensible and capricious world. Every place, every thing and every type of thing must have a controlling spirit that, whilst wilful and unpredictable can at least be negotiated with - here's my offering, please don't harm me. It seems less obvious to me regarding other religions, which might just be a reflection of my lack of knowledge. Why did Islam deviate from Christianity? What changed circumstance or new need did it satisfy? I don't know. But, to come full circle, this theory seems a very anthropological one.

Great stories - read them.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Arax Miltiadous.
596 reviews45 followers
November 30, 2017
αναστενάζω από την ανακούφιση του κορεσμού απόλαυσης. .
Και ψάχνω προσεκτικά, διεξοδικά, σχεδόν τυπολατρικα να βρω τα κατάλληλα λόγια. ..
έχω διαβάσει καμιά ντουζίνα βιβλία τον τελευταίο μήνα, αστυνομική λογοτεχνία φαντασία κτλ κτλ..
Για να διαβάσεις Le Guin πρέπει πρώτα να αδειάσεις το μυαλό σου από όλα τα άλλα.
Να είσαι εκεί στο Σημείο Μηδέν.
Γιατί ΜΕ αυτήν ΔΕΝ χωράει οτιδήποτε άλλο, ειδικά στην συγκεκριμένη ανθολογία.
Είναι τοοοοσα πολλά αυτά που σου δίνει η γυναίκα, τόσοι κόσμοι, τόσα συναισθήματα, νέα ορολογία, νέα πραγματικότητα, δεν ξέρω ίσως στον καθένα ��ας να διαφέρει.
Μετά από κάθε βιβλίο, διήγημα, νουβέλα της δεν μπορείς να εξέλθεις ίδιος. Απλά πράγματα.
Την λατρεύω.
Με χορταίνει με τέτοιο τρόπο που συνειδητοποιω πώς δεν ήξερα πριν πώς ήμουν πεινασμένη!
Το Χαμένοι Παράδεισοι με έστειλε στο άπειρο και ακόμη πάρα πέρα. Και τα γενέθλια του κόσμου πολύ καλό, παρότι το περίμενα. . Το ορεινές συνήθειες όμως, ξέρεις πως ΚΑΝΈΝΑΣ ΆΛΛΟΣ δεν θα μπορούσε να το συγγράψει, όχι με επιτυχία αλλά έστω κατανοητά!
Να το διαβάσετε όλοι εσείς που νομίζετε πως δεν υπάρχει τίποτα πια να σας εκπλήξει. Για τους ομοιοπαθείς, σίγουρα θα υπάρχει και κάτι άλλο παρόμοιο εκεί έξω. .. ελπίζω. .
Profile Image for Tomislav.
1,002 reviews68 followers
January 12, 2018
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 sometimes unfamiliar configurations. And when we finally understand that the slave peoples of Werel are the light-skinned ones, or watch through the eyes of a mother as her son grows into the limited male role that is all that is expected or allowed in their world, we gain a perspective on our own assumptions that mere head-bashing will never accomplish. Ursula LeGuin refers to herself as a feminist, but in these stories she's gone beyond that to what I think of as gender-aware humanism. This book gets my highest recommendation. The contents are as follows -

Coming of Age in Karhide
The Matter of the Seggri
Unchosen Love
Mountain Ways
Old Music and the Slave Women
The Birthday of the World
Paradises Lost
Profile Image for Samrat.
274 reviews22 followers
June 6, 2011
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, is a rich and detailed journey of middle-generation colonists in space.
703 reviews26 followers
August 12, 2020
A collection of stories, most of which published in various sources and now gathered under the common umbrella of gender \ sex concepts in relation to society norms and dictates. Some were visits to worlds from long ago, some were detached from the author's previous works. It was interesting to realize how the author has addressed this topic throughout time, sharing her poignant perspective with the readers, even if sometimes in a hard hitting and disturbing afterglow to linger with it and incite introspect and judgement of societies as a whole, both those in humanity's past and those of potential futures and variations.
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