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.
Deeply concerned with gender, these eight stories, although ostensibly about aliens, are all about ourselves: love, sex, life and alienation are all handled with illuminating grace. Le Guin's overarching theme, the journey, informs her characters as they struggle to come to terms with themselves or their worlds. The journey can be literal, as in "Paradises Lost," set on a generational ship, where the inhabitants, living in a utopia, learn they will land on the planet their ancestors set out to colonize 40 years earlier; and as in "Unchosen Love," where a young man falls in love with someone in another country and must decide if he can build a new life in a new place. Or the journey can be figurative, as in "Coming of Age in Karhide," in which an adolescent in a genderless society enters sexual maturity; and in "Solitude," as outsiders visit and study a planet where the men and women live apart and a young woman seeks to perfect her soul in the only place she knows as home. In "The Birthday of the World," the nature of God is considered as hereditary rulers, literal gods to their subjects, give up their power when new gods aliens come, throwing their culture into chaos.Gender is a constant concern: "The Matter of Seggri" takes place on a planet where women greatly outnumber men, and in "Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways," society is based on complex marriage relationships comprising four people. Le Guin handles these difficult topics through her richly drawn characters and her believable worlds. Evocative, richly textured and lyrically written, this collection is a must-read for Le Guin's fans. FYI:Winner of five Hugo and five Nebula awards as well as a National Book Award, Le Guin published two major books last year,Tales from Earthsea andThe Other Wind.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Excellent book, but not for all
Just as you would expect of Ursula Le Guin, this is a very well written book full of well-crafted stories set on painstakingly constructed and believable alien planets, like The Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed. This book, unlike those, is explicitly tailored for a lesbian feminist audience. Since I'm only a very liberal gay man, I kind of overdosed on the feminism, slipped on the estrogen, and fell right out of the book halfway through.
The Birthday of the World
I used to love Ursula LeGuin. Growing up, she was one of my favorite writers and The Dispossessed was my favorite book. I’m not sure what happened with this current collection of stories but I don’t think I can ever read LeGuin again without feeling a little nauseated. Enough said—awful collection of self-indulgent, insufficiently edited, stories full of “wisdom,” despair, and awfulness.