The Birthday of the World

And Other Stories

    • 4.2 • 48 Ratings
    • $13.99
    • $13.99

Publisher Description

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.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy
October 13
HarperCollins e-books

Customer Reviews

Prairie_Dog ,

Great Stories by a Master Storyteller

“The Birthday of the World and Other Stories” is a collection of sorter fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin. These tales were written from 1994-2002 Most of these stories are set in her Ekumen, also known as the Hainish Universe. These were my favorite stories, because this is a familiar setting to readers of Ms. Le Guin’s works.

The first story “Coming of Age in Karhide” is set on Gethen which we know from the novel “The Left Hand of Darkness.” This planet is most interesting because of it’s inhabitant’s lack of gender. They are normally neither gender, but become male or female when they come into kemmer. This story tells us exactly how that all works.

The second story is “The Matter of Seggri” which takes us on a deep dive into the culture of a planet where the number of women greatly exceeds the number of males.

The next two stories are set on the Planet O, where marriages are bisexual affairs consisting of four individuals. Clearly, this leads to a lot of interesting interpersonal dynamics.

“Solitude” takes place on the world Eleven-Soro. On this planet, the natives seek to be persons, but never people.

In “Old Music and the Slave Women” an Ekuman Ambassador is present when the practice of slavery is overthrown on a world where most of the population were considered “assets.”

“The Birthday of the World” was my least favorite story. It was set at a time where an Inca-like empire falls on a planet, only partially due to the arrival of alien visitors.

The last and longest story is “Paradises Lost” which isn’t part of the Hainish Cycle at all. This novella is actually a story of the people on a generation ship sent from earth on a voyage to an alien world that is expected to take six generations.

The late great Ms. Le Guin was a master of her craft. These stories showcase her unique sociological science fiction. The characters are the focus, but their experiences teach us about their worlds, cultures, pasts, and potential futures.

Hargnon ,

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.

Reads-at-night ,

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.

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