Ex Libris Kirkland

Buy it from Amazon

First Written 1966
Genre Scifi
Origin US
Publisher Ace
ISBN-10 0441732941
My Copy library paperback
First Read August 26, 2013

Rocannon's World

This is the first novel Le Guin wrote in her 'Hainish Cycle', and definitely has the hallmarks of the things that make her novels fun. The Hainish Cycle isn't a series, a single story, or even a coherent universe. It's more like a sketch of a universe, or what a universe would be like if you made it up for fun and didn't subject it to demands of absolute consistency. The stories are out of chronological order, they don't build or depend on each other, and some of the facts about them conflict. But it's a rich, if inconstant, background for a story, and gives the tales a feeling of narrative depth that's particularly satisfying.

Anyway, in the Hainish books there is one (or maybe more than one) bit galactic empire, but the action of the story always takes place on an outer world, a place with a less-developed society that's been untouched by commerce with other worlds. An ambassador, anthropologist, or researcher is sent from the Empire to get to know the new planet, so you get both a fantastical world that's set in something like high medieval or bronze-age times, but as experienced by a 'civilized' person. It's the classic 'connecticut yankee' setup, I suppose, but Le Guin can spin that angle with a lot of variety. You get both the 'fantasy world' satisfactions of the new place, as well as the fun of an advanced westernized scifi society.

In Rocannon, a crew of imperial explorer/ambassadors on a fringe planet is killed by insurgents, and our Hero must journey across the planet to find the rebel force and then alert the authorities to the rebel force's location. Along the way, he 'goes native' and adopts the bronze-age warrior culture, and makes startling discoveries about the different life forms on the planet.

All that sounds kind of lame. It's that sort of summary (along with the terrible covers) that seems to have pushed Le Guin into such a scifi ghetto, and why I'd never really read her before. But she is a GREAT writer, and the humaneness and grace with which she describes the idea that People Are Different is what makes her really worth reading.

Noted on August 30, 2013

Yes, this book has flying cats. But the He-Man imagery isn't that strong; you should find a different edition just so you don't have to look at that monstrosity on this cover.

Noted on August 30, 2013

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
Interested in talking about it?
Get in touch. You might also want to check out my other projects or say hello on twitter.