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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brain Food for SF fans
Every story in *The Wind's Twelve Quarters* is memorable, which makes it one of my favorite collections of Ursula Le Guin's short stories. They are arranged chronologically by order of publication, so you can see the maturation of the artist in these pages.
"Semley's Necklace" was the germ of the later novel *Rocanon's World.* In this story, Rocanon was a...
Published on March 4, 2001 by Pam Hanna

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
Unlike Four Ways to Forgiveness, this is an uneven collection, a mixed bag of Le Guin's early short stories.

My favorite are definitely the sci-fi stories: from Hainish cycle - Winter's King (a prequel to The Left Hand of Darkness), The Day Before the Revolution (a prequel to The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia), Vaster than Empires and More Slow (humans try...
Published on October 30, 2010 by YA book lover


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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brain Food for SF fans, March 4, 2001
By 
Pam Hanna "wind star" (Thoreau, New Mexico United States) - See all my reviews
Every story in *The Wind's Twelve Quarters* is memorable, which makes it one of my favorite collections of Ursula Le Guin's short stories. They are arranged chronologically by order of publication, so you can see the maturation of the artist in these pages.
"Semley's Necklace" was the germ of the later novel *Rocanon's World.* In this story, Rocanon was a minor character who just wouldn't "sink obediently into obscurity" as the author says in her introduction, and "you really can't argue with these people."
"April in Paris" is an entertaining time travel story in which characters from past and future travel to 1463 to join a literature professor from our time in his quest to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the poet Francois Villon.
"The Masters" is, in the author's words, her first "genuine authentic real virgin wool SF story." But it's also a psychomyth, set in a future time when math had become one of the "black arts" and its rediscovery becomes most costly for the hero.
"Darkness Box" is a magical tale set in no-time - a sort of fable - one of Le Guin's fortes.
"The Word of Unbinding," like "Semley's Necklace" later grew into a book - four actually - *The Earthsea Trilogy* and a sequel. It lays the groundwork for the most consistent essential element of how magic works in Earthsea.
"The Rule of Names" is a sword and sorcery tale, but with an interesting little twist.
"Winter's King" is another seminal story, the beginning idea for Le Guin's masterpiece, *The Left Hand of Darkness.* Since the novel came out, she has written another short story (in a Dozois collection) about the planet Winter, Karhide, and the androgynous Gethenians. I hope she writes more of these.
"The Good Trip" is a whimsical psychological tale, set in the '60s, of a trip that never happened - except that it did.
"Nine Lives" is one of the best clone stories I've ever read. It's right up there with Kate Wilhelm's excellent *Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.*
"Things" is another parable-like tale of the strangeness and daring of human ingenuity.
"A Trip to the Head" reminds me of the episode in *Alice in Wonderland* when Alice found herself in a wood where there were no names - for anything.
"Vaster Than Empires and More Slow" (based on the Hainish series) is hard science fiction with strong psychological observations, and here you can see the maturation of the writer. In the exploration of another planet, astrophysics, biology and human and alien psychology come into play with a peculiarly satisfying ending.
What happens to the creative mind (in this case, an astronomer) when it is driven underground? The next story, "The Stars Below" answers that question.
"The Field of Vision" is another true nuts-and-bolts SF story about the exploration of an alien planet, but with the author's usual psychological depth and insights, this time about the nature of human perception.
"Direction of the Road" is also about perception, of humans and - trees (there are an uncommon number of trees in Le Guin's stories, not only in her excellent *The Word for World is Forest* but also in her short stories).
"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" should have been, in my opinion, the last story in the book because it is a parable, or a psychomyth if you will, on the theme of sacrifice (although I don't believe the word "sacrifice" is ever used in the story) and would have been a more fitting ending to the collection. "This is the treason of the artist:" says Le Guin, "a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain."
However, I do understand the author's reasoning in putting "The Day Before the Revolution" last because the heroine of this story is one of those who walked away from Omelas. This one is a spinoff from her story about the planet of *The Dispossessed* which is a novel about anarchism. Real anarchism. "Not the bomb-in-the-pocket stuff, which is terrorism, whatever name it tries to dignify itself with; not the social-Darwinist economic 'libertarianism' of the far right; but anarchism as prefigured in early Taoist thought...its principal moral-practical theme is cooperation (solidarity, mutual aid)."
This is a fine collection and its author, in my opinion, is one of the most influential writers of the genre responsible for bringing science fiction up to the caliber of true literature.
pamhan99@aol.com
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply fascinating !, June 11, 2001
Ursula Le Guin is one of my favorite authors (SF or otherwise) - "The Dispossesed" being my personal choice as the best book she wrote. But this story collection is definitely a tie for the second place along with "The Left Hand of Darkness". No doubt the inclusion of the story "The Day before the Revolution" affects my choice - but that's not the only great story this book has. In fact, I liked almost all the stories that are included - and a book which contains even 3 or 4 stories as good as "The Day before..", "The Masters", "Things", "The ones who walked away from Omelas", etc. deserves to be considered as a classic. Personally I am fascinated by Laia Asieo Odo, the anarchist philosopher who is alluded to in "The Dispossesed" (part of the reason I like it so much is its almost believable portraiture of a functioning anarchist society) - and is only explored as a person in the story "The Day before..". I wish Le Guin had given a novel-length treatment of Odo as a person and her development of the syndicalist philosophy.
To go back to the stories in "The Wind's Twelve Quarters" - what I find so fascinating is the wide range of stories that are included: from the delightful dargon-and-sorcery fantasy of "The Word of Unbinding" and "The Rule of Names" (the only comparably charming dragons I can think of appear in some of the fables of Orson Scott Card) to the melancholic, existential "Things" and "The stars below" (where an astronomer whose observatory has been burnt down by a mob, ends up living in a mine where the sparkle of the minerals become "the stars below" for him). Many of the stories really make you think about deep social and ethical issues. And then there are the stories which can be just enjoyed for the sheer joy of reading them, like the dragon stories and the time-travel romance, "April in Paris". All in all, a must-read for any thinking person!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underappreciated stories from a fine story teller, November 22, 1999
By 
I have a two volume collection from Grafton, the UK publisher, and it ranks in my 'most read' section. The author has a variety of stories with comments that are helpful to fans and writers alike. Those that boast their ignorance of SF literature should be given this volume and made to read 'Nine Lives' and 'The Ones that walk from Olemas'. The characters are well drawn and believable and her stories concentrate on the emotional moments within the narrative rather than clever explanations. A fine storyteller that should not be passed of in the SF ghetto.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing!, March 20, 2000
By 
Jee (South Korea) - See all my reviews
The Wind's Twelve Quarters gave me a deeper understanding of one of my fave SF writers of all time--and pure reading enjoyment. The stories just blew me away--especially the last two, 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas' and 'The Day Before the Revolution.'(So had 'Nine Lives,' but I'd seen it before.) About the ones who walk away,I don't think they've gone to findhelp for the child. Like the author says, 'helping' the child wouldn't really be helping him/her much and besides, it would ruin the happiness of thousands. In a way, I guess, they're refusing to live happily at the cost of another--but it's more than that. They know how terribly wrong it is to know the child is there, and accept it. Even if that is the basis of all their happiness and their achievements. They're not just running away from that reality, but trying to do something about the terrible injustice in it, because sacrifice of one for thousands is right only when it's voluntary and comes from love. Remember how Dostoyevsky makes the pious younger brother respond to his elder brother's cynicism about tormenting one innocent child for the happiness of all mankind. He said Jesus had played the role of that child. Not that the man's sacrifice has turned this world into a near-paradise like Omelas, but Omelas isn't paradise anyway, because there is such gross injustice in it. Can the unwilling scapegoat be the only kind of sacrifice that works? The ones who walk away are out to find out, I guess. Joy to the ones who want questions, not answers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection, June 29, 2000
By 
"xyillia" (San Bernardino, CA USA) - See all my reviews
My favorite story of this collection,"Semeley's Necklace" tells of a young woman of a backward colony who seeks the return of her family's heirloom from The Spacelords who are really anthropologists. A eclectic blend of fantasy and sci-fi, including a story from her "Eathsea" Series. Every story has an interesting twist that will surprise you., 17 stories in all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Right there with all of the great literary artists of history, November 12, 2010
This book is expertly crafted and entertaining with an enormous amount of symbolism and metaphor. Le Guin's book is crafted in the vein of the authors of old whose timeless works clearly demonstrate a genius mind behind them.

The short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" is undoubtedly one of the best short stories ever written with amazingly vivid imagery and deep layered meaning that requires some quite pontification to unravel.

Just get it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, October 30, 2010
Unlike Four Ways to Forgiveness, this is an uneven collection, a mixed bag of Le Guin's early short stories.

My favorite are definitely the sci-fi stories: from Hainish cycle - Winter's King (a prequel to The Left Hand of Darkness), The Day Before the Revolution (a prequel to The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia), Vaster than Empires and More Slow (humans try to communicate with a different type of intelligence, reminiscent of Solaris); and independent - Nine Lives (about cloning) and The Field of Vision (explores mysterious structures on Mars).

A couple of Earthsea shorts are great too - The Word of Unbinding and The Rule of Names. I wasn't sure I wanted to try Le Guin's fantasy before, but now I am certain I will, her magic system is quite interesting.

The worst for me are the psychomyth category of stories (very much like Margo Lanagan's writing) and the acid-trippy ones. They are just weird and most of the time I didn't even understand them. The best in this bunch are - The Masters and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, hard to explain what they are about though...

Almost forgot, another good thing about the collection is that all stories are preceded by the author's introductions. Interesting to learn about Le Guin's creative process. She is a very smart woman.

P.S. I would really appreciate if someone could explain Darkness Box to me. It seems to be a favorite of many readers, but I have absolutely no idea what happened in it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent collection from a master storyteller, July 24, 2009
By 
Scott FS (Sacramento, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
First of all, I must confess that I am a huge Le Guin fan; I think she writes science fiction (and fantasy) stories like no other. Her sense of 'place', that is, her description of an alien world is so compelling, she makes it not only believable, but alluring, so much so that I can imagine living there, and even desiring that such a world would exist.

This is a somewhat early work, with stories written from 1962 to 1974.

As others have mentioned, the two master works in the volume are "Semley's Necklace" and "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". The first is an unintentional time travel story, the other a variation of the old story concerning what would you tolerate for a good and peaceful life.

Other stories in the collection are perhaps less powerful, but no less interesting. "Winter's King" is the story of a king, who is a woman (sort of), with a particularly hard road to take to find her place in the world. This is another of the author's stories set in the Hainish universe, with Earth being only one of many societies set to travel the known worlds.

Highly recommended. Not all of the stories are as pleasurable, but all are interesting and well-written. The book is a keeper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad it's being reprinted!, September 6, 2000
By 
I can't believe this is out of print. That is just a plain old crime. This is wonderful stuff. There's something about reading science fiction that feels like fantasy that I just love, because it feels somehow smarter than plain old fairies-and-elves fantasy. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Her comments before each story are priceless, and the words and names and place names she made up are peerless. I think I'd pick Darkness Box and The Stars Below as favorites.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wind's Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin, December 5, 2001
By 
An excellent collection of short stories from this master (mistress?) of Science Fiction and Fantasy literature.
Ursula is a cut above the rest in terms of intellectual involvement, poses moral and spiritual questions, always tells a ripping good yarn.
Fans of The Dispossessed will be entranced by the story of Odo - founder of the Odonian movement which led to settling of the moon Anarres by the anarchists.
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Wind's Twelve Quarters
Wind's Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin (Hardcover - March 4, 1976)
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