Ursula Le Guin's best?

Discussion in 'Ursula K Le Guin' started by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, Oct 27, 2004.

  1. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    What would you say is Ursula Le Guin's best novel and short story in her long and reasonably prolific career?

    I incline more towards sf, so even though the Earthsea books are a truly excellent read, I'd have to choose my favourite from her sf works.

    While there are many contenders, my personal favourite here is The Lathe of Heaven. It's a book about a man in a near future dystopian earth who realises that he can re-shape reality through his dreams. Terrified, he attempts to squash this ability by taking drugs that keep him from dreaming. Instead, he is sent to a psychiatrist for treatment for drugh abuse. The psychiatrist learns of hius powers, and starts using them to reshape the world into a better sate - or so he thinks. Instead, each of his changes, while dealing with real-life problems have often terrifying unexcpected consequences. The dreamer attempts to run away from the docotr, is re-captured, and watches helpless as this monomaniac creates one false utopia after another. The dreamer finally takes matters back into his own hands ands re-establishes a non-ideal (but immensely changed) status quo with the aid of aliens who were created by one of his dream-revisions.

    It is mildly Philip K Dick-ian in its subversion of surface reality, but it also deals with LeGUin's recurring theme of the perils of Utopia-building.

    Other notable novels are The Disposessed, the Word for World is Forest and The Left Hand of Darkness - each one is a deserved classic, but Lathe is just my personal favourite.

    I think the best short story LeGuin has ever written is the Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, a tale that responds to the classic dillema, 'would you be willing to let one person live in total misery so that millions could have a good life?' with a passionate and resounding 'NO!'.

    WHat about you? What do you think are LeGuin's best works, and why?

    Here is her bibliography: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Bibliography-Plain.html
     
  2. The Master™

    The Master™ Science fiction fantasy

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    Only ever read one... The Dispossessed... Very good read...
     
  3. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I'm definnitely up for the recommendations - I haven't read Le Guin yet, but I should. :)
     
  4. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I love the first Earthsea trilogy -- because it's so beautifully written, and because it gets better every time I read it.

    For SF, I recommend "The Left Hand of Darkness," a truly groundbreaking work in its time.
     
  5. stencyl

    stencyl Geek Squad

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    I think that it is a tough call between Lathe of Heaven and Left Hand of Darkness. Both are excellent novels.

    I agree with all that was said about Lathe of Heaven. I like the way it plays out the power struggles throughout. I like the fact that LeGuin subtly begins with a sort of gender role reversal between Lelache and Orr, and that role reversal is shifted to a more traditional one through on of the reality-revising dreams. I also like the way the book deals with the conflict of action v. inaction in light of some very man-made messes in the world, not too far fetched ones at that. These things are secondary to her concepts of utopian building in the novel, which are dealt with extremely well.

    I think that Left Hand of Darkness does some very interesting things with gender, far more overtly in this work. The tension, sometimes revulsion, that Genly Ai feels in reaction to the androgynes is palpable. And it's this that allows LeGuin to critique those behaviors that even the reader has learned are "supposed" to be attached to males and those that are "supposed" to be attached to females.

    She is also one of those writers who can flat out tell a great story.
     
  6. Quokka

    Quokka wandering

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    Thanks Knivesout for the mention of Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, I actually came here to post a question about a short story By Le Guin that was brought up in an Ethics class from a few years ago (didnt get around to reading it and couldnt remember the name) and that definately sounds like it :)


    I've only read the Earthsea books so far, and not the latest one at that. But i saw Lathe of Heaven in the SF Masterworks releases the other day and intended on reading it after i finish Blood music.
     
  7. GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Knivesout and everyone else here,

    Have you checked out my new thread that will feature a "classic" fantasy author/week titled Classic Fantasy Pre 1980s in the Books & Literature Forum yet?? Please stop by and post a comment if possible as Ursula will be one of the authors featured, although probably not in huge detail as she appears in this Author forum already. Everyone, maybe you could suggest a great fantasy author or two I've missed based on the crtieria I have posted there?

    Anyway Ursula K. LeGuin holds a special memory for me because her original Earthsea trilogy was I thnk the first fantasy books I ever read way back in the mid '70s and got me on the path to the fantasy series ever since!! Therefore I would have to vote for The Earthsea series and for the Sci Fi stable The Left Hand Of Darkness as her two greatest works.

    Bye for now.:D :D
     
  8. Jay

    Jay Well-Known Member

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  9. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    Hey, cool! Glad to be of help!:D Do read the story if you can - one of the best things I've read.
     
  10. igneouscarl

    igneouscarl Degenerate and wretched

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    I've read quite a bit of le Guin, my favourite has got to be The Left Hand of Darkness, although the Tombs of Atuan comes to mind as well. As for a short story I would say Paradises Lost.
     
  11. Amber

    Amber Oh mighty Gackt

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    I enjoyed her Earthsea Novels personally, though to be fair I have only read a little of her sci fi. There is one book whose title escapes me, which I thought was rather good, which I'm almost certain was by her. Something about a different version of Pysche, with a really really ugly girl, in conflict with those who are beautiful.
     
  12. Azash

    Azash mushroom lord

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    I have only read Earthsea in which I found the second two extremly boring!
     
  13. Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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    I watched the Earthsea film recently and though it was very poor I was still quite interested on how the book portrayed events. I think I will buy that trilogy in my next book splurge.
     
  14. George Potter

    George Potter Atomic Individualist

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    Novel: The Dispossessed

    Short: "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"

    (Which is, IMO, her finest work overall. Anyone who can read that final, gorgeous paragraph without tears in their eyes needs to get their emotions checked. ;) )
     
  15. Thadlerian

    Thadlerian Riftsound resident

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    The Left Hand of Darkness would of course be a strong candidate, but for my personal favourite(s), I would have to bring forth some of her less known work:

    The Eye of the Heron, about a "riot" on a prison planet, a sad, moving story about those wise, friendly characters I would think we all love.
    But there is also the first UKL I read, Orsinian Tales, which is halfway "mainstream", about the lives of people in the imaginary Eastern European country Orsinia.

    Both these books posess a sort of tender beauty that marks out Le Guin as the best writer I've ever read.
     
  16. Azash

    Azash mushroom lord

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    I have only read the first two books of the earthsea trilogy and would recommend them to anyone.:D
     
  17. Carolyn Hill

    Carolyn Hill Brown Rat, wandering & wondering

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    The Left Hand of Darkness is my favorite. I've read it many times, delighting in LeGuin's prose and admiring how she unapologetically immerses her readers in the world, minus expository cliffnotes, so that our experience is akin to Genly Ai's first contact--everything at once, swamped with alien mystery, so that from the very first we have to puzzle our way along, piecing together the layers of significance and meaning. And when we shift to Estraven's native point of view, and see Estraven puzzling over Genly, and then shift to the Gethenian folklore, and layers build on layers of meaning, and the two characters come together, struggling to connect--oh, I'm swept away. That's what I love about the best science fiction: it takes me there.

    Though I've read (and own) most of her short fiction and nonfiction collections, none of her short stories stick in my mine except for one that's been mentioned above: "Those Who Walk Away from Omelas," which, although beautiful, I remember mostly because it's often reprinted in college anthologies.
     
  18. Trimac20

    Trimac20 Trimac20

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    Only read the Earthsea Quartet - which was brilliant - and the 1972 pulp fiction, but certainly not 'pulp' in quality - 'The World For World is Forest' - which I think is somewhat overlooked, considering it won the Nebula aware for sci-fi. I've also read other short stories by LeGuin, whom is one of my personal faves.
     
  19. Paige Turner

    Paige Turner Just another busted robot

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    I'm going to chime in with the crowd and go for The Left Hand of Darkness for best novel.

    For best short story, I really liked Nine Lives.
     
  20. Denie Alconn

    Denie Alconn Horrible Shrew

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    I`d definately vote for the Earth Sea trilogy. I think it must have been the first fantasy series I ever read.
    The fourth book was a bit too gloomie for my taste, maybe she was having her midlife crises then...:rolleyes:
     
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