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The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

(Hainish Cycle #9)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  3,705 ratings  ·  322 reviews
For more than four decades, Ursula K. Le Guin has enthralled readers with her imagination, clarity, and moral vision. The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, and five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, this renowned writer has, in each story and novel, created a provocative, ever-evolving universe filled with diverse worlds ...more
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published March 5th 2002)
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Jordan Denning Each novel and short story in the hainish cycle stands on its own. While there is mention of the worlds of other novels, the stories are only tied…moreEach novel and short story in the hainish cycle stands on its own. While there is mention of the worlds of other novels, the stories are only tied together in the sense that they are in the same universe. (less)
Jose Andres Order does not really matters. All volumes share a universe and are connected but they are independent. You can read Wikipedia entry …moreOrder does not really matters. All volumes share a universe and are connected but they are independent. You can read Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainish... to get some background information. It is a really complex universe and it is difficult to get a global vision of it but, to my understanding, these books are intended to be read as individual, local, personal stories. Hope you enjoy it.

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

Community Reviews

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Lyn
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Maria
I liked all the stories here, but Paradises Lost I loved. I thought about it since yesterday, and decided to knock this book up from four to five stars because of Paradises Lost, and that's the story I'd like to write about here.

This novella is about a generational ship travelling from Earth to a new, distant planet, to study it and see whether or not it can be colonized. After reading this, I was considering whether such an enterprise would ever be successful, not because of technological limi
...more
John
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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:
...more
Tunde
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I was an anthropology and sociology major at the University of Michigan, and I picked up this book for free at a used book sale. Impressed would be an understatement. Guin's stories are as thorough as the ethnographies that I have to read for my Anthro classes; class, gender, inequality, signification, and more are covered in a writing that envelopes and enchants the reader. My favorite story is "Paradise Lost", a story about the culture and mythology that are created in a space vessel of h ...more
Roxana Chirilă
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jennifer
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Peter Tillman
Reread (mostly) of Hainish stories (mostly), as my personal memorial to the author, now sadly gone. Some of her very best shorts collected here. TOC and publishing histories of the stories: 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.
...more
Rose
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.


Emily
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Coming of Age in Karhide" ~ A pretty straightforward title for a pretty straightforward story. If you read The Left Hand of Darkness and wondered about Kemmer and exactly how it worked, this will clarify things. Fascinating.
"The Matter of Seggri" ~ Seggri is a world where the number of females is greater than males to a magnitude of 6. Males are venerated and cosseted and do little more than compete in games and impregnate females. The females do pretty much everything else and, it could be arg
...more
Dylan Tomorrow
The Matter of Seggri: I would not have expected this one to floor me that much. That's now already two stories that really hit me emotionally, and I haven't even read all of them yet!(view spoiler) ...more
Samrat
That was really fascinating. It was definitely a different approach to science fiction than I've read before - and I'll attribute a good portion of it to the author's gender. The stories are written with a beautiful tenderness, anthropological explorations of unfamiliar worlds and races and relationships, made real through very relatable themes of love and friendship. They're very curious. Some of the worlds are sketchily described, while Paradises Lost, the final story and the longest by far, i ...more
Shalini Nemo
Coming Age in Karhide - 4/5.

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

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

Mountain Ways - 4/5.

Solitude - 4/5. I didn't like this the first time I read it in another collection. I'm at that point in my life where I underst
...more
Robert
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, short-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tatiana
Sep 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciencefiction
This is a collection of short fiction, 8 stories set in UKL's various worlds and universes. I found them all to be engaging, serious, and good. The first one, Coming of Age in Karhide is set on the world of The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a world I've missed. It was cool to get to revisit it and learn more about the culture of Karhide on Gethen. I won't take you through each story, but suffice it to say that some are sad, others are joyous or funny, but all of them are so very real. The char ...more
mstan
Many of these short stories take place in the same universe The Left Hand of Darkness does, but Le Guin goes further in exploring matters to do with sex and love for a few of them. More than just being 'experiments', though, her worlds are complete, organic. You can also picture them growing beyond her, the births and deaths and forests extending beyond what we can see on the page.

What if...

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

Le Guin is also a master of characterization,
...more
Anita Pomerantz
Wow - - reading this book is like drinking from a fire-hose. Each of Le Guin's story is, in essence, a mini social commentary, and no topic goes untouched. Sex, politics, the role of gender, religion - - it's all there! Clearly, this woman is a very, very smart individual with a lot to say about the world - - how it is and how it could be. She's also highly imaginative in her approach. These are science fiction stories, and many of them are very clever and use a creative premise to tell their st ...more
Tomislav
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of 1990s novellas and novelettes from Ursula LeGuin. That means they are mostly from the Hainish universe of two of my favorites from her: The Left Hand of Darkness, and Four Ways to Forgiveness. In fact, "Coming of Age in Karhide" is set on Gethen, and "Old Music and the Slave Women" on Werel. The majority of these stories deal with gender roles, but not in that cheap "women:good; men:bad" 1970s fashion. Here we see the interdependent yin and yang of the sexes, albeit in so ...more
Buck
The Birthday of the World and Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin is a collection of eight stories and two short essays, afterwords. Six of the stories are from the Hainish cycle. In most collections there is variability. Some stories are better than others. And I guess that's true of this one as well, but I'd be hard pressed to say which one isn't as good as another. They're all good, or very good, or even better. Of the first seven six involve sexuality, and the other one war. The final story, ...more
Cindy
Wow. Usually short story anthologies get a middling rating from me because one or two standouts function as the tent poles. That's not the case here at all- each story is excellent in its own right. I loved learning more about people, places, and cultures in the Hainish Universe. But my favorite story was the multi-generational interstellar starship voyage. Fantastic collection, and a must-read if you've read The Dispossessed or Left Hand of Darkness.
Ves
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could not finish this book, possibly because it require more attention than I could give it in the Airport and on the plane. The few stories I read did have very interesting exploration of alternative social structures, but the characters lacked depth to me. I am guessing this book would be better the second time around, since I would not have to relearn so many new terms and ideas. It just did not intrigue me enough to give it another shot.
Simon
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first story was the weakest, IMO, but after that, they were all fantastic. Highly recommended.
Natalie Bowers
4.5/5 stars

One Saturday afternoon, when I was about twelve years old, my dad put a tape in our VCR and pressed play. After the pounding of the 20th Century Fox drums had faded, there was a quiet pause followed by a second dramatic fanfare. (Even now, nearly thirty years later, the sound of it makes my insides tickle with anticipation!) As the trumpets trumpeted, little blue words appeared on a space-blackened screen: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … And thus began my love affair with
...more
Carol
A REVIEW IN PROGRESS

A review must follow after reading this fabulous short story collection. So far I have completed "Coming of Age in Karhide," "The Matter of Seggri," and "Unchosen Love." I have yet to be disappointed within any of these stories.

"Coming of Age in Karhide"

The first story I imagined as an extended and detailed footnote taken out of Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness," an interesting novel I enjoyed but hardly remember anything about. As soon as I began, however, the memories
...more
Valentina Salvatierra
A consistently thought-provoking and solidly written collection of short stories, unified I would say by the theme of human relationships, particularly romantic, under the stress of configurations that are unusual for modern Western sensibilities.

The Birthday of the World in its entirety is a good embodiment of Le Guin's stated intention, in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, to tell stories that are not centred on conflict but rather on other types of interacti
...more
Angela
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This is my second attempt at a Ursula K. Le Guin book, and I'm going to give up.

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

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

Additionally, I find it really difficult to become i
...more
Catherine Siemann
LeGuin is such a treasure -- smart, thoughtful speculative fiction that starts with a cultural "what if?" and works it through in fascinating detail. These stories are especially strong in that regard. Returning to the setting of The Left Hand of Darkness for "Coming of Age in Karhide" is a particular treat. She examines different social structures in "Mountain Ways" and "Solitude" in ways that play out as utterly plausible. The final story, "Paradises Lost" takes place largely on a spaceship en ...more
Jennifer
Aug 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was nice to be able to read stories about the different planets of evolving humans that I had encountered in previous novels, but the real crown jewel of this collection is the novella at the end, "Paradises Lost". In it, Di Chew (Di Qiu, the Chinese Pinyin word for Earth) sends an envoy of humans to explore and settle a planet, Hsin Di Chew (Xin Di Qiu, or New Earth) hundreds of years away. As the envoy cycles through a few generations waiting to arrive, some form a religion deeming that exi ...more
Arun Divakar
Aug 28, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yet-to-finish
Wonderfully written with in-depth observations into the nature of societal views on gender and sexuality. Shelving this book for the moment for it would make more sense to read the rest of the Hainish cycle before I come back to this one.

We'll meet again.
Ben Kruskal
A phenomenal collection of short stories--several set in her Hainish cycle. As usual, beautiful writing and thought provoking.
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

Hainish Cycle (6 books)
  • Rocannon's World
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle #2)
  • City of Illusions
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4)
  • The Word for World is Forest
  • The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle #6)
“I never knew anybody . . . who found life simple. I think a life or a time looks simple when you leave out the details.” 92 likes
“In war everybody is a prisoner.” 49 likes
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