For quite some time the name Ursula K. Le Guin appears in anything SciFi related and got my curiosity recently. I made some investigations, went to some local book stores to find out with which book I may begin with. It was said to start with the Hainish Cycle, a book series which was published first in the late 60s. It contains of a total of seven books which were published until the late 70s, one of them even in 2000. Some of the books even earned awards like the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award and the Locus Award, all of them honoring the work of Ursula K. Le Guin.
By the end of last year I started to look around and found the book “The Word for World is Forest”, quite a catchy title and being part of the Hainish Cycle made me buy it immediately. Fortunately it is a stand-alone story and can be read without having read the other books of the cycle.
The story starts with a group of people arriving on a planet where a colony of yumens is placed. They find the place devastated and destroyed by the inhabitants of the planet. We learn that an incident happened beforehand, where the wife of one of the inhabitants was raped and killed by a yumen. This incident – so it seems – lead to the revenge of a usually peaceful race. From this point on a vicious circle starts where one battle leads to revenge, and one bloodbath follows another. The author Ursula K. Le Guin addresses a lot of issues in this book of about 189 pages. From the beginning where we learn the yumens see the original inhabitants of the planet as animals, not even human at all – and holding them as slaves, for the household or for their pleasure. All this because they are inferior in body and weapons to the yumens the inhabitants are treated with brutality and violence. Even when their own scientists state the theory that they are somehow related they who want to continue with this lifestyle ignore them. Something we’ve often seen within our own history. The author brings them up and we start to think of the time of colonisation in America, Australia or Africa where the european settlers where greeted by the natives.
“ (..) A realist is a man who knows both the world and his own dreams.” p. 142
The storytelling is amazing, Ursula K. Le Guin writes directly to the point, may it be descriptions or dialogues. Each sentence is sharp, clear and doesn’t take much of your time. That’s one of the reasons why this book is filled with a lot of story. By the way – another thing is that each chapter (and there are eight of them in total) is a view directly from another character, this way of telling this story gives us a lot of insights from both sides, the settlers and the natives. Furthermore it builds a lot of suspense to the very end, all the characters that appear within the story kinda grow on you.
All in all this book is a very fine read, can be read all by itself, without further knowledge and makes my curiosity towards other books from Ursula K. Le Guin even greater.
Title: The Word for World is Forest
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Year (published): 1972