Final set of Novellas from the Collection, and a final word:
On the High Marsh 3/5 Stars
So this story is another Earthsea story. Purportedly taking place on a relatively untouched island from the Earthsea archipelago, this is a variation on a common trope: the mysterious stranger come to town. I guess if I read more Earthsea novels and stories, I might be better equipped to place this one within the continuum of stories, but I can’t, so I can’t really weigh in on whether or not I think this is a gem hidden from among an otherwise untapped resource of this particular island. But, I liked this one. It was simple. It was interesting, dealing with a hidden name and a hidden agenda, and of course I like when someone is way more powerful than they let on. It had a kind of Western movie trope feel to it, like Shane, almost, where we don’t really fully grasp (or I didn’t full grasp) the totality of what was happening. This continues back to my general frustration with myself and this collection. That I don’t actually know a whole lot about the greater set of stories and novels. It reminds me of when I would be a kid and would pick up a new novel and read it and be kind of confused and be like Huh, I guess this is what reading is like as an adult and I didn’t really understand what was going on. And then like 15 years later it turns out I read the third book of a series, which happened to me a bunch.
Dragonfly 4/5 Stars
This one didn’t really do much to disabuse my perception of this series basically being in the same world as The Witcher. In this story a young woman of vague wizardry potential seeks out joining the wizard school. But of course, they don’t take women into their ranks. So what’s a girl to do? She begins by enlisting the help of a charlatan who actually just wants to sleep with her and she tricks him into giving up the secrets, and then she is able to leverage this into getting in. Like in The Witcher, the older male collective is astonished and perplexed by her audacity and ability. So it goes, so it goes.
In a lot of ways it feels to me that Ursula K Le Guin is a lot like David Bowie. Let me explain, I don’t feel like her material is the most original types of writing I have ever come across. I like her vinegar and her stridency a lot. And I also like how literary her writing is within the confines of the genres she’s working through. So, the David Bowie part. He was an innovator and a dabbler in a lot of different musical genres. He wasn’t necessarily an inventor/creator of genres, but once he decided to do a thing, he just about perfected it, and in some cases, ended it. I think that le Guin works similarly. She’s not the most creative or groundbreaking, but she can indeed writer the shit out of an genre she wants to.
Paradises Lost 5/5 Stars
This is the best one in the collection. Likely I think so in part because it’s one of the ones that isn’t dependent on knowing much about Earthsea or Hain in order to understand what’s even happening. Also, compared to the others in this collection with the same orientation, it’s just the best writing.
This novella takes place on a colonial ship headed off into deep space, in one of those missions where like 100 years passes and then there’s a new colony. In this ship you have the originators of the mission long gone and the subsequent generations on the ship as they work their way toward New Earth. Through this mission though a new culture has arisen from the old. Where there’s nothing natural per se, where religions has come and gone and melded and broken apart and reformed based in expediency and culture. And also this in a small space and a relatively small number of people.
This is a culture where virtual reality is more important than books, where possessions are temporary because of the need for matter to belong to the greater collective, and so conversations and memories and song are longer lasting than any material thing. Over all this is the most uniquely realized of all the collected novellas, and being the last of them and the longest of them, it’s the one that will make the greatest impression.
Now that I am done with all 13 novellas, well, I think that I should have spaced them out more, spent more time in the original novels, and done some more ground work. So ti goes.