Ursula K. Le Guin revisits her popular Hainish universe with four interconnected stories that together weave a tapestry of revolution and political turmoil. Le Guin tells the tale of two worlds where decades of slavery and class distinction are about to come to an end. She begins at the end with the story of a woman who survived the perilous times and now must face what comes after. Then in turn come tales of a naive envoy, an aloof observer forced to choose sides, and a young slave who wins freedom, only to confront the bonds of her own mind.
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
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