Jared Millet's Reviews > Planet of Exile

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin
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bookshelves: finally-got-around-to, other-worlds, science-fiction, new-wave-sf

Finally got around to: "Three Hainish Novels" book two

After the high adventure of Rocannon's World , Planet of Exile is a one downer of a read, which is odd considering that it's in Rocannon's World that pretty much everybody dies. Then again, Rocannon was only doomed to be stuck on the planet that bears his name for at most a decade or two. The Alterran settlers in the colony of Landin have been stuck on their own planet, completely out of touch with the rest of the galaxy, for over 600 years with apparently no hope of ever regaining contact. What happened to galactic civilization - whether it was wiped out in the war that was hinted at in the previous novel, or whether they just forgot about the settlers on Gamma Draconis due to a clerical error is never explained. The colonists can't know, so neither do we.

The planet, as do all the worlds in Le Guin's Hainish cycle, has its own inhabitants, a race of hominid nomads who have a measure of stone-age technology and hut-building skills, but still haven't even figured out the wheel. The settlers at Landin cling to their old ways and the "hilfs" (highly intelligent life forms) do the same, neither group believing the other to be truly human. And that's the tragedy at the heart of this story. While there is an invading horde from the north and the threat of a fifteen-year winter to dramatize it, the true enemies in Planet of Exile are time, decay, and the characters' resistance to any kind of change until their own destruction is staring them in the face.

Le Guin novels certainly give you a lot to think about. There is a dollop of hope at the end of Planet of Exile and the acknowledgement that life, for the survivors, will probably go on. It's rare that I'll complain for lack of a happy ending, but in this case I think Le Guin went a little too heavy on the "dread and despair" in her recipe and a little too light on the joy. After all, we have to believe that her characters have more to fight for than mere survival.

Next: City of Illusions

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Reading Progress

February 21, 2013 – Shelved
July 2, 2015 – Started Reading
July 2, 2015 – Shelved as: finally-got-around-to
July 2, 2015 – Shelved as: other-worlds
July 2, 2015 – Shelved as: science-fiction
July 18, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 11, 2016 – Shelved as: new-wave-sf

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