Some time around the middle of the year I started reading collections of short stories as a break from lengthier books. I’ve still got a few on the go but this is one I both started and finished this year.
I’d never read any Le Guin before but was aware of her reputation and had thought about reading one of her more famous novels. However I decided this would be a better way to discover if I liked her style or not.
There’s a range of stories here, all except one in a SciFi or Fantasy vein. A couple are little more than jokes. There’s one that’s a parable about gender roles. The final three – including the one the collection takes its name from – all take place in a connected universe. This irked me slightly whilst reading the first one. I like things to be self-contained. When the world is already alien and you’re having to learn about new technology, races, cultures and planets it seems to annoy me when some of that is not relevant to the current story. However I do acknowledge that this is a quirk of mine and in other contexts I don’t expect stories stripped down to just the essential for the current narrative.
I enjoyed these stories although it seems my favourites were the ones, according to the introduction that Le Guin was least happy with herself, or saw as less substantial. In particular the parable one, The Rock that Changed Things, she felt was a little too on the nose and preachy. I also enjoyed the jokes. The others contained things that were a little strange. Sometimes strange and beautiful, sometimes just odd.
She’s clearly a gifted writer but I don’t think I’ll go back to her for a while.
6/10 – Probably most enjoyable if you’re already a fan.