The Word for World is Forest Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2018
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“Winner of the Hugo award, it tells an old story in a new way…The plot is originally handled…The characters are well drawn…Ms. Le Guin has written a book well on its way to becoming a classic in its field.” ―The Jackson Tennessee Sun
“A fantasy of the future that might horridly come true; a parable from a skilled writer that speaks to ourselves now.” ―The Oregon Journal
“Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own.” ―The Boston Globe
“Queen of the realm of fantasy.” ―Washington Post
About the Author
Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of more than three dozen books for children and adults. She was awarded a Newbery Honor for the second volume of the Earthsea Cycle, The Tombs of Atuan, and among her many other distinctions are the Margaret A. Edwards Award, a National Book Award, and five Nebula Awards. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
- Grade Level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Mass Market Paperback : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 076534985X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765349859
- Product Dimensions : 4.19 x 0.38 x 6.75 inches
- Publisher : Tor Teen; Reprint Edition (July 1, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,339,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The original context was the Vietnam War, but with ecocide much further along today than it was in 1972, the environmental message is more timely than ever. As fiction this is not nearly as good as later works like "The Dispossessed" or "Always Coming Home," but though simple, it packs a punch.
I wonder whether Andre Norton's 1966 novel "Victory On Janus" was an influence on both Le Guin and Cameron. Her novel with a similar plot and theme includes humans who transform and become part of the indigenous people fighting against their off-world based destruction. That element is not present in Le Guin, but it is in Cameron.
The story rotates between several point-of-view characters, all of them well-drawn with distinct voices, though not all of them have depth; between them you see the storm developing that will shatter New Tahiti and change the Athsheans forever. Captain Davidson is a dominant soldier, more than ready to push the Athsheans back by force in retaliation for their attack; disagreeing with the colony’s leaders, he forms his own guerrilla force to enact vengeance. Lyubov is with the colony’s science staff, one of the few people who has some comprehension of the Athshean culture and society. Selver is one of the Athsheans; when his wife dies after Davidson rapes her, Selver does what the Terrans considered unthinkable and fights. He continues that fight against the destructive Terrans, who continue to plunder the forests—and as the title points out, the Athshean word for “world” and “forest” is the same.
Compared to Le Guin's best, this one is something of a lesser read---the tone is very didactic, Davidson is a bit too cartoonish in his villainy, and there's a number of obvious cliches at play here. It's very much a work from the early '70s, reflecting the anger and frustration of Vietnam, Woman's Lib, and the growing environmentalist movement, all of which are major themes in the novel. I left The Word for the World is Forest thinking that another hundred pages and some additional polishing would have mitigated its flaws, turning a strong novel into a great one. But aside from the brevity and clichés, Le Guin's prose still shines, and the execution is quite good... the rotating-PoV in particular is well done, allowing the reader to learn quite a bit of information, and see both sides of the story, in a natural way that precludes exposition. Her parable hits you with all the subtlety of a Mack truck---it's not the nuanced, layered novel that Left Hand of Darkness or The Disposessed are---but it's a surprisingly entertaining novel, and well worth the few hours it'll take to read through its 190 pages.
The story is technically science fiction because it occurs on an alien planet. But the theme of an oppressed people being forever changed and in some ways, ruined, is like Groundhog Day, destined to repeat itself over and over again. Whether here on earth, or out in the cosmos.
The message is sobering and the ending bittersweet. The characters, including Selver, Lyubov, Davidson, the Athsheans, and the Yumens are so real, you get the feeling things happened exactly as Ursula K. Le Guin penned it. As if we are watching a documentary. Le Guin makes no judgements. She just shares the way things happen to be.
This very short novel is superb, and is part of the author's Hainish Cycle of works.
Top reviews from other countries
It's a quiet, thoughtful book. Definitely worth a read.