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For more than four decades, Ursula K. Le Guin has enthralled readers with her imagination, clarity, and moral vision. The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, and five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, this renowned writer has, in each story and novel, created a provocative, ever-evolving universe filled with diverse worlds and rich characters reminiscent of our earthly selves. Now, in The Birthday of the World, this gifted artist returns to these worlds in eight brilliant short works, including a never-before-published novella, each of which probes the essence of humanity.

Here are stories that explore complex social interactions and troublesome issues of gender and sex; that define and defy notions of personal relationships and of society itself; that examine loyalty, survival, and introversion; that bring to light the vicissitudes of slavery and the meaning of transformation, religion, and history.

The first six tales in this spectacular volume are set in the author's signature world of the Ekumen, "my pseudo-coherent universe with holes in the elbows," as Le Guin describes it -- a world made familiar in her award-winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness. The seventh, title story was hailed by Publishers Weekly as "remarkable . . . a standout." The final offering in the collection, Paradises Lost, is a mesmerizing novella of space exploration and the pursuit of happiness.

In her foreword, Ursula K. Le Guin writes, "to create difference-to establish strangeness-then to let the fiery arc of human emotion leap and close the gap: this acrobatics of the imagination fascinates and satisfies me as no other." In The Birthday of the World, this gifted literary acrobat exhibits a dazzling array of skills that will fascinate and satisfy us all.

Topics: Sexuality, Feminism, Love, Futuristic, Multiple Perspectives, Short stories, Anthology, Novella, and Speculative Fiction

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061803925
List price: $10.99
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Another collection of short stories I enjoyed. None of them stuck in my head as clearly as "Things" from "The Wind's Twelve Quarters" did, though.more
I love Le Guin's crusty old loners.more
I had read about half the short stories in this collection already - they'd all made it to the Year's Best collection that I read faithfully - but I wanted to see the ones I hadn't yet come across, and I was not disappointed. "Coming of Age in Karhide" is probably my favorite short story ever, and while the rest of these don't eclipse it, they're also worthwhile musings on love and relationships and the cultural and social pressures that shape them.more
On the back of my copy there is a blurb from Robert Silverberg

"Eight wise and wonderful stories by one of the great masters of science fiction."

That about covers it.more
Read all 10 reviews

Reviews

Another collection of short stories I enjoyed. None of them stuck in my head as clearly as "Things" from "The Wind's Twelve Quarters" did, though.more
I love Le Guin's crusty old loners.more
I had read about half the short stories in this collection already - they'd all made it to the Year's Best collection that I read faithfully - but I wanted to see the ones I hadn't yet come across, and I was not disappointed. "Coming of Age in Karhide" is probably my favorite short story ever, and while the rest of these don't eclipse it, they're also worthwhile musings on love and relationships and the cultural and social pressures that shape them.more
On the back of my copy there is a blurb from Robert Silverberg

"Eight wise and wonderful stories by one of the great masters of science fiction."

That about covers it.more
"Coming of Age in Karhide" ~ A pretty straightforward title for a pretty straightforward story. If you read The Left Hand of Darkness and wondered about Kemmer and exactly how it worked, this will clarify things. Fascinating."The Matter of Seggri" ~ Seggri is a world where the number of females is greater than males to a magnitude of 6. Males are venerated and cosseted and do little more than compete in games and impregnate females. The females do pretty much everything else and, it could be argued, hold all the power in the society. However, when the Ekumen arrive, the world has to decide whether the way they've always done things will continue. A very interesting thought experiment, but also really sad."Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways" take place on the planet O, where, in addition to genders, the people also have moieties and enter into marriages in groups of four, two of each gender and two of each moiety. The planet was first featured in the title story of A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, and LeGuin writes in the forward of this book that she did so much work in hashing out the system of relationships that she had to revisit it and explore the complications further. "Unchosen Love" explores what happens when the foursome is made up of two strong twosomes that have to learn to love each other's partners as well in order to make the relationship work. It's also about being a stranger in a strong society and moving somewhere one doesn't feel comfortable in order to stay with his lover. "Mountain Ways" focuses on what happens when, because of a smaller population, a fourth for a relationship is not easily found, but an unsuitable partner is readily available and desired. Again, fascinating. I just love LeGuin's societal and relational experiments. They don't even need to have a plot, just exploring the society is enough, but as a bonus, they do and it's entirely satisfying. "Solitude" ~ The Ekumen goes to learn about a new planet, but are having a very hard time connecting with the denizens. An enterprising woman decides to bring her kids down to the surface hoping that they'll be allowed to learn from the adults and pass the information back to the stabiles on Hain. The unfortunate consequence of the children growing up on the planet is that they might internalize the teachings and want to stay. The way of life itself on the world is intriguing. I'd like to learn how to starwatch myself."Old Music and the Slave Woman" ~ In her book Four Ways to Forgiveness, LeGuin brought us to the joint worlds of Werel and Yeowe who were going through a slave revolution. Old Music was a character that appeared in that book, but was sort of auxiliary. Here, he gets his own tale, having to really get in deep with the folks he's been observing for over 35 years, and becoming a pawn in their power struggle. I'm glad we got to revisit this character, and find out how the revolution is getting on."The Birthday of the World" ~ I wasn't as big of a fan of this one. The local religion is the main focus, as well as a power grab. It had a pretty funny punchline, if you will, but the buildup wasn't really worth it. "Paradises Lost" ~ Almost novella-length, this was the best part of the book for me. I love, love, love stories about colony ships. The description of the ship processes, the relationship of the main characters, and the governing body of the ship's people were almost as enthralling as the main conflict which had to do with a religion devised by the ship's passengers. This is a commentary on how people seem to need something to believe in, even though their ancestors were the most logical and intelligent the world had to offer at the time, and the ship's governing body was formed with a strict attention to the separation of church and state. So, so good.more
Excellant. Far better than the last collection of her short stories I read changinf planes which was distinctly average. Each of these stories makes you stop and think.Although all nominally set within the Hain universe, the stories aren't really united by much of a common theme. There is a lot of love, sex and different styles of society present, as anyone passingly familiar with the Hain universe might expect. We return to some of the worlds featured in novels, and explore some new ones. I haven't always been impressed with the Hain novels: the ideas are good, but they fail to capture the reader as a detailed story. These shorter works are much better - the essance of the world's society is distilled into one episode of a character's life with a much higher connection for the reader. We get to revisit Gethan from Left Hand of Darkness, and two stories set in the multiple person and moity marrige world of O, as well as my personal favourite Paradises Lost, set on a generational colony ship. The styles of the stories vary, from 3rd person narratives to epistolary exerts of reports back to Hain. The prose is at times, blunt, with none of the victorian prudishness about body parts that the US sometimes displays. This sin't surprising given the inspection into human sexuality and modes of relationship that the first few stories detail. Well worth reading with an open mind and enjoy the variety of the possible human conditions.more
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