The Word for World is Forest: 3/5 Stars
A novella from 1972 and part of the Hainish cycle, this book tells the story of a human colony sent to an arboreal world to strip all the resources from it. They are commanded by a human explorer extraordinaire (who is characterized and portrayed in a very 19th century American sensibility of absolute dominance over the landscape and the people who live there). We come across the colony as they are about to receive a “shipment” of 200 women, who will help firmly establish the colony otherwise peopled by men because it will allow for future generations. As quaint as this weirdly gendered tiering of things is, this creates an alarm among the indigenous population who have previously been subdued into submission. This alarm at the permanence of their subjugation gives them the impetus to fight back.
So this should sound like and remind you of both Fern Gully and Avatar, and that’s a fair comparison as all these share the same kinds of ecological disaster and human arrogance. This book has a lot less of the white savior feel to it as we are treated a fully justified revolution by the indigenous population without the need of a savior to guide them through the process. The people we meet probably should feel a little like the Fuzzies from H Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy, and this is also a fair comparison. Like with a lot of Le Guin books, we are getting both the creation of and modeling of a genre or sub genre of story.
The Telling: 3/5 Stars
This is another, now late, Hainish novel from Ursula Le Guin. This novel both fits into a kind of sub-genre of novel that I really like, plays in that genre, and then also directly reminds me of another novel I will get to. So the story here involves an emissary from the Ekuman government (which controls multiple worlds across the galaxy) to check on some alarming changes that have been perceived. Specifically, this off-world planet has given up a number of traditional cultural and religious practices. So while checking in on these changes, our protagonist begins to realize that maybe some of these practices did not changing and causes our protagonist to consider her own relationship with those practices.
So, the first kind of novel this is is the kind of post-colonial novel (especially British empire and especially South and Southeast Asia) in which the local government officials learn how to aver and manipulate the broader controls of the Empire to keep getting the necessary resources and power. So this novel has some of that.
But more so, the novel this most reminds me of is Henry James’s The Ambassadors, in which an American man is sent to England by his fiance to find her college aged son who has taken off with some money and is living a bohemian life. Once there, the protagonist himself falls head over heels with the life he finds being lived. Anyway, I loved that novel, and this novel is good, I don’t think it will stay with me very long.