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City of Illusions

(Hainish Cycle #3)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  5,419 ratings  ·  448 reviews
Scattered here and there, small isolated groups of humanity lived in a state of semi-barbarity. Lost were the skills and science, the knowledge that had been Earth's in the golden age of the League of Worlds.
~ ~~ ~
Each time a colony of Earthmen began to stir the ashes of half-forgotten technology, the Shing, mindlying ravagers of Terra, would crush them like insects.
Paperback, 10702, 217 pages
Published November 1st 1974 by Ace Books (first published 1967)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I really enjoyed this 1967 SF novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, set on a far-future version of Earth. A man stumbles through the forest, his mind a complete blank slate, his eyes alien, golden cat's eyes. He's taken in and taught by a small group of humans, who teach him their language and give him the name of Falk, but eventually he is encouraged to leave and go find out who he really is.

And so a dangerous, cross-country journey begins. Earth is sparsely populated by humans who live very simply,
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
City of Illusions by Ursula K. Le Guin is a part of her Hainish cycle of books.

This work involves an alien traveler who has arrived in a forest region of what was once the eastern United States with amnesia. His journey across the continent allows Le Guin to describe a dystopian landscape that could compliment the future as described by Walter M. Miller, Jrs A Canticle for Leibowitz.

The book is highlighted by Le Guins remarkable imagination and her sparse but descriptive prose. The subject
J.G. Keely
Like the rest of the early books in the Hainish series, this one has a very familiar tone and plot. We have our isolated, alienated protagonist on his quest for one single goal through an unpredictable world which he cannot comprehend, making strangely disconnected romantic liaisons on the way, and constantly lost in thought about how human relationships are supposed to work.

But of all the series, this book uses these recurrent themes in the most interesting and naturalistic ways. The first half
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
Parth and her family live in a comfortable house in the forest, in a timeless tranquility. Suddenly, a man with yellow eyes and no mind stumbles into the sunny clearing where she sits weaving. How's that for an alien encounter scene?

This book takes place on a mysteriously depopulated future Earth. For some reason, perhaps because it's so far from the reality of the tamed landscape of this isle, I've had recurring dreams and fantasies of the land covered in forest 'thick with deer' with only
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its difficult to believe that Le Guin wrote this book only two short years before her masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness; they both take place in the same basic Hainish universe, but they each feature extremely different versions of the details and the history of that universe.

This novel is also much more cerebral and restrained than the incredibly impassioned, brutal, beautiful Left Hand of Darkness, although it is also beautifully written. But I do prefer the latter.

However, she still
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this for the "Evolution of SF" group

I always feel as if I should like LeGuin more, especially the Hannish Cycle, of which this is #3, the one before The Left Hand of Darkness which is supposed to be a true classic. While I did like the original EarthSea trilogy & The Lathe of Heaven, these books are just OK yet most seem to think they have great messages & are fantastically written. I don't understand it. The idea of a race that changes
Nate D
The truth is largely inaccessible to the limited scope of a single perspective. One of the key themes here that remains highly pertinent today. Also, the utility of falsehood, the ease with which a false narrative may be created and corroborated, the complex truth of identity. If Rocannon's World was LeGuin's early fantasy quest reimagining, this is her post-apocalyptic barbarian story, but it's also the hinge point from her more direct early work into her more thematically complex later works ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a very concise Philip K Dick novella if you just take the last third or quarter of the book: a game of deceit and reality-plumbing and distrust of identity, but nowhere near as freewheeling. From a pure plotting perspective, this phildickian aspect is undercut by the previous three-quarters of the book, as Falk's experiences form the reader's bedrock. But I doubt that Philip K Dick is really where Le Guin was going.

I never quite warmed to this. The long journey to Es Toch felt meandering
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A man wanders out of the forest with a severe case of amnesia. The locals take him in and try to teach him their ways, as it is obvious that he is not of their world. When he has learned all he can from them, he must set out across the vast continent toward the city of Es Toch, hopefully to figure out where he came from, why he is there and what happened to his memory. The most important lesson imparted to him from the forest people is to trust no one, particularly the Shing.
Three quarters of
Fairly early work by Ms. Le Guin in the soi disant Hainish Cycle, and this is definitely one of the novels that the author cites as having "some discrepancies", is how I believe she puts it. We're starting to see here a merge of hard sci-fi adventure into a more sociological and exploratory area. I'm old-fashioned in my choice of favorites, so I like the adventure and "man of action" vibe in this book. It also has a hint of Norton again, with a mysterious outsider alone against a hostile ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
City of Illusions opens to a mysterious premise, grows increasingly intriguing, intensely distressing, and reveals itself cunningly profound. A truly captivating and thought provoking tale - a literally cerebral read, if there ever was one -, impossible to put down, once it starts seeking, asking, answering and hypothesizing. Pure and delightful Le Guin train-of-thought.
Charles Dee Mitchell
Other reviewers emphasize that there is no need to read La Guin's Hainish series in any particular order. But I do not know what I would have made of City of Illusions had I not read Planet of Exile first. When this novel came out, there had been three Hainish novels published in two years, and so readers did not have the eight novels we have now to choose from. It's more likely that readers came to this work with the first two under their readers' belts. Writing about City of Illusions opens up ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, scifi, 2018, american
"There's always more than one way towards the truth. Strap yourself in."
- Ursula K. Le Guin, City of Illusions


"Truth, as ever, avoids the stranger."
- Ursula K. Le Guin, City of Illusions

'City of Illusions' is the third book in LOA's Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1. It was originally published in 1967. It has two main narrators Falk and Ramarren. It is infused with anthropology, philosophical speculations on the nature of truth, time, lies, patterns, knowledge, mortality,
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le Guin is a master at taking a workaday story of a protagonist suffering from acute amnesia (sound familiar?) and turning it into a focused think-piece on self awareness and discovery of who we really are. It took a long time in the narrative to get to the core premise, but when it was revealed, it made me put the book down for a minute to really contemplate Le Guin's theme.

In one of Joan Didion's essays she opines, "We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be -
David (דוד)
A decent book. Great imagination of imagery, surroundings and ideas; loved this part the most. Liked the first half more than the other. Bleak dystopian landscape. Various factions of Terrans displaying different expert abilities, was nice. Interesting ideas, like Mindspeech, Talking animals (a slightly disturbing idea), lying and mind-lies, etc. Overall story was okay/good. The journey of the Quest was interesting. Perhaps not amongst one of Le Guin's finest books.

A one-time-read certainly
Kat  Hooper
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Originally published at FanLit

You go to the place of the lie to find out the truth?

Ursula K. Le Guins HAINISH CYCLE continues with City of Illusions, which I liked better than its predecessors, Rocannons World and Planet of Exile. City of Illusions takes place on Earth sometimes in the far future after an alien invasion has killed off most of the people and has completely changed the Earths ecology, infrastructure, and geopolitical arrangement. Theres a
Ursula K Le Guin wrote city of Illusions in 1967, the third book in the Hainish Cycle, the one before The Left Hand of Darkness. Unlike The Left Hand of Darkness, City of Illusions didn't win awards and it is not on lists of books one should read. What a great oversight that is. This is a terrific book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Our protagonist stumbles out of the forest, knowing nothing, remembering nothing, naked, amnesiac. He is taken in by a clan of forest people who nurture him, teach him, and
Mike H
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi
I've been going through LeGuin's Hainish Cycle (in publication order), and this one has definitely gotten me hooked, and seems to be where the series has really started coming into its own. The story is fairly simple -- a strange, alien-looking man awakes with no memory in the forest and has to go on a journey to figure out what is going on. But the themes are rich and there's so much interesting stuff to like here.

For me the two ideas that came through most strongly was 1) The problem of other
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
City of Illusions was my favorite of the trilogy (Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile.) Like the others, it's about a journey of sorts, and starts off slow and gradually builds in intensity. But to me it was also the most mature work of the three, dealing with themes of illusion, dissolution, and dystopia.

We begin with a madman, or child-man, in the woods who has no memory of his past, and who is taken in and cared for by a forest family. After he recuperates, the patriarch of the family has
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book ''City of Illusions'' was a really nice surprise for me.Small in size,very easy to read and with a very interesting main character,the book has a really good pace and a lot of suspense.

The fact that the Shing race' domination on Earth was based not in weapons but in their extremelly unique ability to play mind games and lie,made the main hero's task extremely difficult.

However once more Le Guin's ability to make her heroes outreach their problems and triupmh,not through violence but
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am again amazed at Le Guins capability of creating a world, a strange culture so vividly. This book is about a journey of self-discovery, an adventure, a quest, it is about trust, history, perspectives, ways of life, and belief, it is about (view spoiler).

Truth, as ever, avoids the stranger.

Theres always more than one way towards the truth.
Frank Privette
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I believe Ursula LeGuin finally hit her stride as a novelist in City of Illusions, the third book of the League of Worlds part of the science fiction Hainish Cycle.

Firstly, theres finally a plot. Secondly, we actually care about the main character, Falk (wont give away anything else here), his situation, his crisis, his development. Third, there is something resembling an adversary (again, I wont give anything away). Sure, the love-interest is an added nice to have. But it doesnt really add
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me this book, third in the Hainish cycle, marks a sea change in Ursula K Le Guin's writing. It's themes are far more complex, the world building superlative, the characters layered with traits that surface when least expected. It laid the foundations for Left Hand of Darkness in subtle ways.

A man out of time and place who knows nothing of himself appears in the Forest of a post apocalyptic Earth, an Earth controlled by the mysterious alien Shing whom no one fully understands. This mysterious
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-horror, scifi
With his odd yellow cat's eyes, Falk appears suddenly -- naked and without any memory of his origins -- in the Eastern Forests of the planet called Earth. He is brought up by kindly forest people, but decides to travel by himself to the "City of Liars," Es Toch, from which the Shing rule the planet. For most of City of Illusions, we follow Falk who is treated with welcome or with cruelty by the various peoples he meets on his way. Eventually, he hooks up with a woman named Estrel while they are ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ursula Le Guin sure is interested in putting people from an advanced civilizations into primitive ones and seeing how they deal with a radically new set of customs. But she's such a fantastic writer, and is exceptionally good at using these situations to examine multiple cultures at once.

City of Illusions changes things up a bit from the first two books in there is also something of a mystery element: our protagonist actually may or may not be from an advanced civilization. We don't know, and
Septimus Brown
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The League of All Worlds has fallen to the devious Shing--an alien civilization with the ability to lie in mindspeech, but that forbids killing. The Shing have relegated humanity to small, isolated populations with limited technologies. That, at least, is what Falk is told by the Terrans who rescue him, naked but for a gold ring on his finger, and wandering the far-future forests of Earth with his mind all but erased. Falk must set out to discover who he is and why his memories were razed. In ...more
Beautiful writing (as ever) but not quite as compelling as some of her other works.
The book begins with a naked, confused man showing up in a forest village in post-apocalyptic North America. He has no memory or language skills, but the villagers take him in, name him Falk, and care for him for several years until he can function independently. He then decides to set off to find out who he really is.

I found his journey across the country very interesting. He learns hard lessons about the dark side of humanity, is helped by quirky strangers, and ultimately remains a good person
Joana Stoyanova
Well! Here we are already on the third book of the series and finally I am excited. City of Illusions is, no doubt, the most suspenseful and well-planned book by Ursula Le Guin (in my humble opinion). I was getting kind of scared that I would be utterly disappointed by the Hainish cycle but I can see hope at the end of the tunnel.

     In City of Illusions we move back to Earth, hundreds of years in the future, where people, our people, are forced to live a simple life and are afraid of advancing
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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, ...more

Other books in the series

Hainish Cycle (6 books)
  • Rocannon's World
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle #2)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4)
  • The Word for World is Forest
  • The Dispossessed

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