Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Word For World Is Forest, Ursula K. Le Guin

The Word For World Is Forest
Ursula K. Le Guin

It's hard for me to believe this short volume won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1973. It seems to be well received, with good reviews on various book review sites. As usual, though, I went the other way. I found it predictable, lacking any credible hero or heroine, and the villain is so simplistic he might as well be a cardboard cutout.

The story is part of Le Guin's Hainish cycle, which includes The Dispossessed. Here we see the introduction of the ansible (a faster than light communications device) during a tale of human exploitation of another world and another culture.

It's all stuff you've read before, no doubt. Peace loving natives are enslaved by the rapacious humans coming to take the world's raw materials. There is a vile military man (the source of many of the problems and the above mentioned cardboard cutout), a human who fights for the natives, and a native who befriends that one friendly human. Everyone else is essentially unimportant.

You can probably envision the central conflict of the story at this point.

Usually I like Le Guin but this is both too simplistic and simple minded.

Those who follow Le Guin will feel the need to read The Word For World Is Forest, but I don't think there's much here.