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The Wind's Twelve Quarters

(Hainish Cycle)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,593 ratings  ·  385 reviews
Wizardry, transforming its master into a cloud of fine mist...cloning, duplicating the ideal man ten times over...Utopia, in a city where almost everyone is perfectly happy...

Ursula Le Guin, author of The Earthsea Trilogy, has a special way of blending stirring adventure with fantasy that has made comparison with such masters as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien inevitable.

Mass Market Paperback, 277 pages
Published October 1976 by Bantam (first published 1975)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  4,593 ratings  ·  385 reviews

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Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This collection of stories is a chronological assortment of published work during the first ten years of Le Guin in publication; it is hard to believe she wasn't published until 32, but her enormous talent makes one feel like all those years leading up to the first story were spent in a literary chrysalis. Le Guin is a master author, and whether or not sci-fi is a reader's preferred genre, her works are important enough to be read by lovers of the written word.

Many of the stories in this collect
Jr Bacdayan
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short stories 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas' and 'The Day Before the Revolution' elevate this collection of what is already an impeccable achievement of intelligent imagination, to a work of immense wisdom.
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of short (especially speculative) fiction
Note, March 11, 2019: I've just edited this review to correct two minor typos.

The 17 stories collected here all appeared (in a couple of cases, under different titles) in various magazines, mostly geared to SF or speculative fiction, from 1960 to 1974. So chronologically, they directly precede those in the later collection The Compass Rose (which I reviewed last week), and if memory serves, I also read this book first. It's a similar mix of genres, but overall, I considered the quality of most t
Unlike Four Ways to Forgiveness, this is an uneven collection, a mixed bag of Le Guin's early short stories.

My favorite are definitely the sci-fi stories: from Hainish cycle - Winter's King (a prequel to The Left Hand of Darkness), The Day Before the Revolution (a prequel to The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia), Vaster than Empires and More Slow (humans try to communicate with a different type of intelligence, reminiscent of Solaris); and independent - Nine Lives (about cloning) and The Field
RJ from the LBC
Le Guin's first short story collection, which includes:

Semley's Necklace: A Story - 4/5 - prologue to Rocannon's World works just fine as a stand alone story
April in Paris - 4/5 - Two frustrated writers in Paris sharing the same room, separated by a few hundred years...until they aren't
The Masters: A Story - 2/5 - II + II = 4
Darkness Box - 3/5 - I know it's up for me, if you steal my sunshine
The Word of Unbinding - 4/5 - OK on its own as a story of a good wizard who is imprisoned by a powerful
Michael Campbell
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have to trust an author a lot to pick up a collection of short stories. Generally, I'm not much for them. Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite authors, so I bought this book at a used bookstore without even reading the description. The name of the author was all I went on, and it proved to be a wise choice. As there's no real overarching theme, I've decided to review the short stories separately.

Semley's Necklace
The only story I had already read before starting this novel. It was put in the
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The specialty of this collection is the chronological order of the stories. They encompass a decade after Ursula K. Le Guin's first publishing, and are an interesting witness of her evolution as a writer. There is no bummer among them, yet in terms of how I could emotionally connected to the stories there was a clear linearity.

The four stories that impressed me the most are all in the last quarter of the book:
- The Stars Below
- Direction of the Road
- The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
- The Day B
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I bought my first copy of this in October 1976 when it was newly released into paperback. It is a collection of Ursula Le Guin's short stories prior to that time - both science fiction and fantasy. I read it immediately, as I had recently discovered that I really liked Le Guin's writing. I've also re-read some of the stories in various anthologies since then. Contents are:

Semley's Necklace
April in Paris
The Masters
Darkness Box
The Word of Unbinding
The Rule of Names
Winter's King
The Good Trip
Nine Li
Procrastinating Slytherin
There are stars in the earth, he thought, if one knew how to see them.

How can one come up with worlds so diverse and so convincing, when one must unfold their story in such short space and time?

Reading Ursula K. Le Guin post mortem –for the first time, mind you- was a rather interesting and emotionally diverse experience for a variety of reasons.

I was rather skeptical at first: I am not particularly familiar with short stories (Poe’s excluded) and The Wind’s Twelve Quarters was entrusted to m
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've only read one other Ursula Le Guin book (The Left Hand of Darkness, which I loved for making me think so hard), so it was a treat to get a range of her short stories. Collections like these aren't necessarily an author's greatest hits. But after reading The Wind's Twelve Quarters, I feel like I know Le Guin much better and consequently, got a good insight in her creative process. I now conclude that Le Guin is an awesome, awesome lady. I would love to have a drink with her. She's just so sm ...more
Peter Tillman
Her first collection (1975). Currently rereading ( 9/18/17). Opens with "Semley's Necklace", one of her 2 best shorts.

Very nice cover art, uncredited, probably by Pauline Ellison:
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this overall and quite liked a number of the stories. I didn't particularly like how curated this collection is by Le Guin. Each story has a small introduction from her that I found to be too influential in my reading of the stories. Eventually, I'd read the story first and go back to her comments. But it made the whole collection seem less about the stories and more about the author. I was surprised that two of my favorite stories are set in the Earthsea world, as I really didn't like ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-2018, sf, stories
Tyler Jones
I admit that I'm one of those people who got a stupidly snobbish attitude towards genre fiction once I started attending university and began studying Literature, and it's taken me decades to reconnect with the simple truth that great fiction transcends genre. In these pages are star explorers and dragons and wizards - but these things are not there because the author wants to distract you from your own reality with them; they are there to illuminate your own reality.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I approached this collection because I was re-reading The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, which is one of those stories that leave a mark on your heart and soul and remain with you forever!
Le Guin gives an introduction before every single one of the stories and I love her for it! These were the stories in the collection:

Semley's Necklace
Not sure what to think of it… I love the imagination in it, I love the writing, can’t abide the protagonist though

April in Paris
Travelling in time. Love isn’t al
This first half of this collection includes some Le Guin's earliest stories and is a nice compilation, but lacks much of the sophistication of her later works, and longer works. Two of the stories included are kind of proto-Earthsea tales that do not necessarily jive with the Earthsea material, but they still offer fascinating glimpses at the process of world-building and storytelling. Two are also prequels to a couple of the Hainish Cycle novels, and are interesting on the own as vignettes of t ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge fan of UKL, especially her early work, so this was a real treat. Generally, I found this collection of some of her very first stories a bit rough around the edges at times, though with glimmers of the greatness evident in her best work. As with her work generally, these stories are often metaphors for something deeper, something real and meaningful, often some aspect of society or human relationships. Sometimes it's something buried just beneath surface, sometimes perhaps something n ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, sci-fi, fantasy
Le Guin is rightly famous for her incredible novels, but she's also a master of short fiction. This collection focuses on her early career, start with her first published stories and ending with "The Day Before the Revolution". Each story has introductory remarks be Le Guin, which provide lovely guidance to the themes and what she was thinking about as she was writing the story.

There are many acknowledged classics in here, but I particularly enjoyed two smaller stories, "April in Paris" and "Th
Erik Graff
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Le Guin fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
These seventeen stories written from 1962 through 1974 constitute a good representative sampling of Le Guin's fantasy and science fiction writing.
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book like you leave a welcoming country, hoping to get back some day.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Just finished reading this short story collection by Le Guin and really loved all of the stories from this collection. I think Le Guin becomes another writer when she writes about anarchism and I witnessed this when I read The dispossessed last year, also the way she incorporates, Taoist philosophy with anarchism always makes me say that she is such a wonderful writer.

I said (she is) and not (she was) because I think she has left such a lasting impression on me with her Taoist and philosophical
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spec-fic
The Wind's Twelve Quarters is a wonderful example of Le Guin's early work in short fiction. This is the first Le Guin I've read besides Catwings so it was exciting to try her "serious" science fiction and fantasy and I was not disappointed by the collection. Her style is engaging and effective and her plots are well-crafted and tied closely to her themes. Since the collection is a near-chronological summary of the first ten years of her career in science fiction and fantasy, it is really excitin ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book decades ago, and I only remember one story from it: "The Direction of the Road." Re-reading it just now, I am not surprised to find that all the stories are great, but I am also not surprised that once again, "The Direction of the Road" blows me away. I had not remembered it as clearly as I thought, just the general idea of it, so it was great to read it and find it even better than I'd remembered. The rest of the stories in the book are "merely" Le Guin at work (which mea ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, women
Some of these stories inspired or take place in the same universes as Le Guin's well known works. But the best part about this collection IMO was the introductions Le Guin wrote to each story describing the inspiration or writing process behind it. It was a really interesting glimpse into her process! I highly recommend to any fans of Ms. Le Guin.
Stephen Case
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Le Guin convinced me with the first two volumes of her Earthsea Cycle that she was worth classifying with Tolkien and Lewis as a writer whose fiction stabbed at the deep, bright heart of things. But while Tolkien and Lewis were not known for their short fiction, Le Guin's first publications were short stories. The Wind's Twelve Quarters is what Le Guin calls a retrospective sampling of the first decade of her short fiction, spanning 1964 to 1974. I don't know Le Guin's complete bibliography, but ...more
Against the general recommendations, I decided to begin my journey with Ursula K. Le Guin with her early writing. This collection of short stories was a mixed ride. Some of them I found confusing, some of them interesting and some of them resonated with me on a deeper level.

Here we can find introduction to many of Le Guin's most notable works: for example Semley's Necklace, Winter's King or The Day Before the Revolution gave me a taste of what I can expect in the novels of the Hainish Cycle. And
Daniel Kukwa
The ultimate Ursula K Le Guin pick-and-mix; full of stories that don't really hold my interest (the medieval, Earthsea-ish stories), and the harder, weirder sci-fi stories I love (particular the Ekumen/Hainish stories). They are all beautifully written, but it definitely draws a solid line between my personal preferences.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for intelligent yet flawed short stories
I spent a long time looking for this short story collection without even realizing it. The journey began one day when I was trying to remember the title of a story. All I could remember was that the story was about a Utopian society which kept a young child in a dark room because that was the only way to keep the utopia; one had to suffer unbearable loneliness and silence in order for the rest to live in said utopia. If the child was ever freed, the ideal world would crumble and become ruined. I ...more
Kristy Buzbee
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The Wind's Twelve Quarters is a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin's short stories - an early collection, so they're some of her first stories. There were some clunkers ("A Trip to the Head," for one, and "The Stars Below," for another), but they were nicely counteracted by some really great works like "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," "Nine Lives," and "Darkness Box." Plus, it includes the two stories that were the first venture into Earthsea (and she notes in the prologue several inconsistenc ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent collection of stories spread out over a substantial range of Le Guin's career. Le Guin's stories are very much focused on the psychological and emotional consequences of distance, travel, and alien-ness. She shares this interest with Samuel R. Delany, another science fiction writer with whom i am more familiar, but i would say her characters are more humble, more likeable, maybe even more human.

The early stories showed their age, being simple of plot and touched with sci-fi cliches. Le
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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 (Hainish Cycle, #1)
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle, #2)
  • City of Illusions (Hainish Cycle, #3)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)
  • The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle, #5)
  • The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #6)

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