The Lathe of Heaven (1971) by Ursula K. Le Guin

TheLatheofHeaven1One of the most radical, yet unradical, ways of thinking.

Fundamentally paradoxical, yet still, fundamental.

Both the thesis and antithesis for change.

(One of most difficult concepts to teach to a classroom of 9th graders scratching themselves in their uniforms on that one day of the year when state-mandated teaching objectives cross into the territory of “Eastern Philosophy.”)

The Tao. The Way.

George Orr is the embodiment of The Way. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin

TheLeftHandOfDarkness1stEdSomebody in the menopausal supplement industry reads classic SF and has a sense of humor, because it can’t be a coincidence that the main supporting character in Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness shares a name with the popular brand name supplement I have spied in the pharmaceutical aisle. Estreven, the character, and Estroven, the supplement, both deal with the consequences of fluctuating hormonal changes, but for Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, the changes are embraced.

Before the male readers of this blog bolt, The Left Hand of Darkness is not a story about menopause, although hormone changes and fluctuating sexuality are common themes.

Reviewing Le Guin’s engaging and brilliant 1969 novel, Left Hand of Darkness, is an impossible and intimidating task. Only a dissertation can do this novel justice, and I doubt I have anything of value to add to the mountain of praise that already exalts this book. It’s a masterpiece. You need to read it. You really need to read it.

Continue reading

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

thedispossessed

This 1975 Hugo Award winner is probably the most literary bit of SF I’ve read all year. I’ve never read Le Guin before, but Jo Walton’s Among Others referenced her quite a bit, and made me eager to try her out. I’m glad I did.

Le Guin’s writing is beautiful. Nearly every page, especially for the first half of the novel, contains brilliant observations about the human condition, written in delicate language usually reserved only for high literature. This isn’t sci-fi. This is Literature with a big “L.”

It’s Literature that happens to be about a brilliant alien physicist who lives on an anarchist planet that was settled 180 years prior. As he works to discover a unifying Theory of Time, he finds his ideas stifled by the customs and needs of his anarchist community. He opts to continue his work on a neighboring planet, the planet of origin of his people, where capitalism and militarism reign, and where his work becomes threatened by the possibility of state ownership. This is a story about the tyranny of society, regardless of its legal and political system (or lack thereof), and the strength of the individual in combating that tyranny.

The story is secondary to the backdrop, which is why the second half of the novel dragged. I was much more intrigued by the first half, during which the world-building and philosophizing took place. However, as the worlds of Annares and Urras developed, the story unfolded and I found myself less eager to continue reading. Despite that, it was a beautiful book, and I would recommend it to anyone. Regardless of its vintage publication date, the themes and problems in The Dispossessed are easily transferable to modern times, and it doesn’t read like cheesy ’60’s/’70’s SF. This is a thinking person’s SF novel. Get out your highlighter.

Some quotes:

“A scientist can pretend that his work isn’t himself, it’s merely the impersonal truth. An artist can’t hide behind the truth. He can’t hide anywhere.”

“Nothing said in words ever came out quite even. Things in words got twisted and ran together, instead of staying straight and fitting together.”

“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.”

“Fulfillment, Shevek thought, is a function of time. The search for pleasure is circular, repetitive, atemporal, The variety seeking of the spectator, the thrill hunter, the sexually promiscuous, always ends in the same place. It has an end. It comes to the end and has to start over. It is not a journey and return, but a closed cycle, a locked room, a cell.”

Enjoy!