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The Compass Rose: Stories Paperback – March 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2014, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry, and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, and PEN/Malamud. Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (March 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060914475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060914479
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,140,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Patiwat Panurach on February 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A good mix of 20 Ursula K. Le Guin short stories, composed of some great sci-fi, good modern fiction, humor, and quite a few UKL-style sureals (Buffalo Gals-style). The stories are all reprints from magazines and anthologies.
Some of the best are "Two Delays on the Northern Line" and "Malheur County", two haunting timeless pieces that talk of life and loneliness. "The Eye Altering" and "The Pathways of Desire" are excellent sci-fi shorts that question the nature of reality and perception. This compilation includes no stories from the Ekumen Cycle.
Although primarily a sci-fi reader, I believe that UKL's fiction including the shorts in The Compass Rose are some of the best pieces of contemporary fiction I know. The sci-fi in this book is a bit limited, but still excellent. All in all, a great way to get introduced to UKL's mainstream fiction, and satisfy your craving for quality sci-fi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Loren Eaton on May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS

"The problem with possessing prodigious talent," Dr. Jacobs said, "is that it means you can do just about anything." It was sleepy spring afternoon in Modern British lit class, one made all the more drowsy because we were discussing the notoriously difficult poetry of W.H. Auden. But despite my lethargy, I wondered at the incongruity of the statement. How could an excess of skill prove anything but a blessing? I didn't have to wait long for an answer. "Auden's dilemma," Dr. Jacobs continued, "was one of selection: How could he settle on a single style when he performed well in all of them?" This must have been the predicament Ursula K. Le Guin found herself in when collecting the short stories that compose The Compass Rose.

In the book's preface, Le Guin admits that "the stories it contains tend to go off each in its own direction." Indeed, the collection is written in a veritable riot of styles. A number point toward science fiction, and some of these would have made George Orwell proud. One describes how a tyrannical bureaucracy gets undone by mysteriously rising sea levels ("The New Atlantis") and another delves into the secret diary of a lab technician whose job of probing mental patients' minds secretly aids a despotic government ("The Diary of the Rose"). Others are more lighthearted. "Intracom" gives Star Trek the slapstick treatment, with a spaceship's incompetent crew trying deal with a stowaway alien and still deliver their cargo of breadfruit trees to a distant galaxy. "The Eye Altering" uses the travails of a sickly colonist on a hostile planet to show how beauty comes as much from the beholder as the thing beheld.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on June 6, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Over the years I have always thought of Ursula Le Guin as a very brave and non-conforming sort of person. I have kept her photograph on my wall for the last 15 years. The reason for my admiration was that I felt (and feel) that she is a writer of major talent who decided to enter the field of science fiction and get labelled as a "sci-fi writer" when she could have won many honors and perhaps a more lasting place in history in mainstream literature. Her works do not cater to the broad popular tastes in fiction, but such novels as "The Left Hand of Darkness", "The Lathe of Heaven", "The Dispossessed" and "Always Coming Home" plus her works of juvenile fiction and collections of short stories add up to a body of spectacularly well-written material that is denied its place in the annals of American literature by the peculiar prejudice that segregates certain kinds of fiction into closed cells. I read most of Le Guin's books as soon as they hit the shelves, long ago, before science fiction became reality with the Internet and Amazon.com. For some reason, though I bought THE COMPASS ROSE fifteen years ago, I never got around to reading it till now. I must say that it was largely disappointing. There are some good stories in this collection, stories such as "The New Atlantis" and "The Diary of the Rose", also "The Pathways of Desire" which links exploration of space with dreams, but other stories seem hasty, `cute' or aimed at the readers of airport fiction. In general, Le Guin is at her best when she creates new worlds or postulates possible futures. Her blend of anthropology and fiction has always thrilled me.Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Snork Maiden on May 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure whether to give this four or five stars, since like most collections of short stories it's a bit uneven. But the good stories are just wonderful. My favorites are the two hilarious feminist ones, one of which isn't science fiction at all. That would be Sur, in which it is revealed that the South Pole was actually first reached by an all-women's expedition from South America. I don't remember the title of the other story, since I just refer to it as the one with the Insane Second Mate, but it is completely absurd and completely enjoyable. "I told you poor Tom was a-cold. Now poor Tom's a-flipped." I love how all the female characters can't stop telling each other how great they are at their jobs - for a woman. Also the recurring joke about how our language is being destroyed - oops, I mean destructed.

The Pathways of Desire and The Eye Altering are both lovely, although the second one gave me a faint suspicion that I was being emotionally manipulated. Still, the manipulation was very skillful - I didn't notice it until my second or third reading. Then there are a bunch of dystopias - some are good, some are fairly incomprehensible. The rest I've forgotten, or blotted out from my memory because they disturbed me.

This sounds like a lukewarm review, but like I said, they're short stories. And my rule for short stories is that if you love at least three of the stories in a book - and I do in this case - then you pretty much love the book. I'm giving this four stars, but if I could I'd give it four and a half.
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