In this stunning collection of four intimately interconnected novellas, Ursula K. Le Guin returns to the great themes that have made her one of America's most honored and respected authors.
At the far end of our universe, on the twin planets of Werel and Yeowe, all humankind is divided into 'assets' and 'owners', tradition and liberation are at war, and freedom takes many forms. Here is a society as complex and troubled as any on our world, peopled with unforgettable characters struggling to become fully human. For the disgraced revolutionary Abberkam, the callow 'space brat' Solly, the haughty soldier Teyeo, and the Ekumen historian and Hainish exile Havzhiva, freedom and duty both begin in the heart, and success as well as failure has its costs.
Most of Le Guin's recent fiction divides into collections of stories bound by theme, such as Searoad, or novels such as the Nebula Award-winning Tehanu, in which the author has revisited worlds she created decades before. This volume is a hybrid: a theme collection featuring the Hainish culture that informed, among other works, Le Guin's celebrated The Left Hand of Darkness. The four interrelated novellas presented here deal with the quest to achieve true liberation on the planets Werel and Yeowe (which are detailed in extensive endnotes). Le Guin focuses on the situation of women, who remain in a subservient position even after civil and interplanetary wars have provided ``freedom for all men.'' Both sexes are treated with more balance here than in Searoad: the women are occasionally ignoble, while the men are shown in complex, but generally positive, lights. Each of these stories is mindful that achieving ``the one noble thing'' requires a mutual respect between the sexes. In contrast to the stridency of Searoad, Le Guin has muted her tone here, achieving both greater resonance and power as she offers an accessible, educational and ecumenical look at the interrelationship among love, freedom and forgiveness.