The Word for World Is Forest (Hainish Series)

The Word for World Is Forest (Hainish Series)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paperback(Second Edition)

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The award-winning masterpiece by one of today's most honored writers, Ursula K. Le Guin!

The Word for World is Forest

When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty yumens, their existence is irrevocably altered. Forced into servitude, the Athsheans find themselves at the mercy of their brutal masters.

Desperation causes the Athsheans, led by Selver, to retaliate against their captors, abandoning their strictures against violence. But in defending their lives, they have endangered the very foundations of their society. For every blow against the invaders is a blow to the humanity of the Athsheans. And once the killing starts, there is no turning back.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765324641
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 07/06/2010
Series: Hainish Series
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 103,382
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.62(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) was the author of more than three dozen books for children and adults, including her groundbreaking novels The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, both honored with Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel. She was also awarded a Newbury 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 additional Nebula and Hugo awards. Her other books include The Eye of the Heron, The Word for World is Forest, and the Hainish series. In 2014, Le Guin was named the Medalist for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation.


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

October 21, 1929

Place of Birth:

Berkeley, California


B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952

Read an Excerpt

The Word for World is Forest

By Ursula K. LeGuin

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1972 Ursula K. Le Guin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2464-1


Two pieces of yesterday were in Captain Davidson's mind when he woke, and he lay looking at them in the darkness for a while. One up: the new shipload of women had arrived. Believe it or not. They were here, in Centralville, twenty-seven lightyears from Earth by NAFAL and four hours from Smith Camp by hopper, the second batch of breeding females for the New Tahiti Colony, all sound and clean, 212 head of prime human stock. Or prime enough, anyhow. One down: the report from Dump Island of crop failures, massive erosion, a wipe-out. The line of 212 buxom beddable breasty little figures faded from Davidson's mind as he saw rain pouring down onto plowed dirt, churning it to mud, thinning the mud to a red broth that ran down rocks into the rainbeaten sea. The erosion had begun before he left Dump Island to run Smith Camp, and being gifted with an exceptional visual memory, the kind they called eidetic, he could recall it now all too clearly. It looked like that bigdome Kees was right and you had to leave a lot of trees standing where you planned to put farms. But he still couldn't see why a soybean farm needed to waste a lot of space on trees if the land was managed really scientifically. It wasn't like that in Ohio; if you wanted corn you grew corn, and no space wasted on trees and stuff. But then Earth was a tamed planet and New Tahiti wasn't. That's what he was here for: to tame it. If Dump Island was just rocks and gullies now, then scratch it; start over on a new island and do better. Can't keep us down, we're Men. You'll learn what that means pretty soon, you godforsaken damn planet, Davidson thought, and he grinned a little in the darkness of the hut, for he liked challenges. Thinking Men, he thought Women, and again the line of little figures began to sway through his mind, smiling, jiggling.

"Ben!" he roared, sitting up and swinging his bare feet onto the bare floor. "Hot water get-ready, hurry-up-quick!" The roar woke him satisfyingly. He stretched and scratched his chest and pulled on his shorts and strode out of the hut into the sunlit clearing all in one easy series of motions. A big, hard-muscled man, he enjoyed using his well-trained body. Ben, his creechie, had the water ready and steaming over the fire, as usual, and was squatting staring at nothing, as usual. Creechies never slept, they just sat and stared. "Breakfast. Hurry-up-quick!" Davidson said, picking up his razor from the rough board table where the creechie had laid it out ready with a towel and a propped-up mirror.

There was a lot to be done today, since he'd decided, that last minute before getting up, to fly down to Central and see the new women for himself. They wouldn't last long, 212 among more than two thousand men, and like the first batch, probably most of them were Colony Brides, and only twenty or thirty had come as Recreation Staff; but those babies were real good greedy girls and he intended to be first in line with at least one of them this time. He grinned on the left, the right cheek remaining stiff to the whining razor.

The old creechie was moseying 'round, taking an hour to bring his breakfast from the cookhouse. "Hurry-up-quick!" Davidson yelled, and Ben pushed his boneless saunter into a walk. Ben was about a meter high and his back fur was more white than green; he was old, and dumb even for a creechie, but Davidson knew how to handle them; He could tame any of them, if it was worth the effort. It wasn't, though. Get enough humans here, build machines and robots, make farms and cities, and nobody would need the creechies any more. And a good thing too. For this world, New Tahiti, was literally made for men. Cleaned up and cleaned out, the dark forests cut down for open fields of grain, the primeval murk and savagery and ignorance wiped out, it would be a paradise, a real Eden. A better world than worn-out Earth. And it would be his world. For that's what Don Davidson was, way down deep inside him: a world-tamer. He wasn't a boastful man, but he knew his own size. It just happened to be the way he was made. He knew what he wanted, and how to get it. And he always got it.

Breakfast landed warm in his belly. His good mood wasn't spoiled even by the sight of Kees Van Sten coming toward him, fat, white, and worried, his eyes sticking out like blue golf-balls.

"Don," Kees said without greeting, "the loggers have been hunting red deer in the Strips again. There are eighteen pair of antlers in the back room of the Lounge."

"Nobody ever stopped poachers from poaching, Kees."

"You can stop them. That's why we live under martial law, that's why the Army runs this colony. To keep the laws."

A frontal attack from Fatty Bigdome! It was almost funny. "All right," Davidson said reasonably, "I could stop 'em. But look, it's the men I'm looking after; that's my job, like you said. And it's the men that count. Not the animals. If a little extra-legal hunting helps the men get through this godforsaken life, then I intend to blink. They've got to have some recreation."

"They have games, sports, hobbies, films, teletapes of every major sporting event of the past century, liquor, marijuana, hallies, and a fresh batch of women at Central, for those unsatisfied by the Army's rather unimaginative arrangements for hygienic homosexuality. They are spoiled rotten, your frontier heroes, and they don't need to exterminate a rare native species 'for recreation.' If you don't act, I must record a major infraction of Ecological Protocols in my report to Captain Gosse."

"You can do that if you see fit, Kees," said Davidson, who never lost his temper. It was sort of pathetic the way a euro like Kees got all red in the face when he lost control of his emotions. "That's your job, after all. I won't hold it against you; they can do the arguing at Central and decide who's right. See, you want to keep this place just like it is, actually, Kees. Like one big National Forest. To look at, to study. Great, you're a spesh. But see, we're just ordinary joes getting the work done. Earth needs wood, needs it bad. We find wood on New Tahiti. So — we're loggers. See, where we differ is that with you Earth doesn't come first, actually. With me it does."

Kees looked at him sideways out of those blue golf-ball eyes. "Does it? You want to make this world into Earth's image, eh? A desert of cement?"

"When I say Earth, Kees, I mean people. Men. You worry about deer and trees and fiberweed, fine, that's your thing. But I like to see things in perspective, from the top down, and the top, so far, is humans. We're here now; and so this world's going to go our way. Like it or not, it's a fact you have to face; it happens to be the way things are. Listen, Kees, I'm going to hop down to Central and take a look at the new colonists. Want to come along?"

"No thanks, Captain Davidson," the spesh said, going on toward the Lab hut. He was really mad. All upset about those damn deer. They were great animals, all right. Davidson's vivid memory recalled the first one he had seen, here on Smith Land, a big red shadow, two meters at the shoulder, a crown of narrow golden antlers, a fleet, brave beast, the finest game animal imaginable. Back on Earth they were using robodeer even in the High Rockies and Himalaya Parks now, the real ones were about gone. These things were a hunter's dream. So they'd be hunted. Hell, even the wild creechies hunted them, with their lousy little bows. The deer would be hunted because that's what they were there for. But poor old bleeding-heart Kees couldn't see it. He was actually a smart fellow, but not realistic, not tough-minded enough. He didn't see that you've got to play on the winning side or else you lose. And it's Man that wins, every time. The old Conquistador.

Davidson strode on through the settlement, morning sunlight in his eyes, the smell of sawn wood and woodsmoke sweet on the warm air. Things looked pretty neat, for a logging camp. The two hundred men here had tamed a fair patch of wilderness in just three E-months. Smith Camp: a couple of big corruplast geodesics, forty timber huts built by creechie-labor, the sawmill, the burner trailing a blue plume over acres of logs and cut lumber; uphill, the airfield and the big prefab hangar for helicopters and heavy machinery. That was all. But when they came here there had been nothing. Trees. A dark huddle and jumble and tangle of trees, endless, meaningless. A sluggish river overhung and choked by trees, a few creechie-warrens hidden among the trees, some red deer, hairy monkeys, birds. And trees. Roots, boles, branches, twigs, leaves, leaves overhead and underfoot and in your face and in your eyes, endless leaves on endless trees.

New Tahiti was mostly water, warm shallow seas broken here and there by reefs, islets, archipelagoes, and the five big Lands that lay in a 2500-kilo arc across the Northwest Quarter-sphere. And all those flecks and blobs of land were covered with trees. Ocean: forest. That was your choice on New Tahiti. Water and sunlight, or darkness and leaves.

But men were here now to end the darkness, and turn the tree-jumble into clean sawn planks, more prized on Earth than gold. Literally, because gold could be got from seawater and from under the Antarctic ice, but wood could not; wood came only from trees. And it was a really necessary luxury on Earth. So the alien forests became wood. Two hundred men with robosaws and haulers had already cut eight mile-wide Strips on Smith Land, in three months. The stumps of the Strip nearest camp were already white and punky; chemically treated, they would have fallen into fertile ash by the time the permanent colonists, the farmers, came to settle Smith Land. All the farmers would have to do was plant seeds and let 'em sprout.

It had been done once before. That was a queer thing, and the proof, actually, that New Tahiti was intended for humans to take over. All the stuff here had come from Earth, about a million years ago, and the evolution had followed so close a path that you recognized things at once: pine, oak, walnut, chestnut, fir, holly, apple, ash; deer, bird, mouse, cat, squirrel, monkey. The humanoids on Hain-Davenant of course claimed they'd done it at the same time as they colonized Earth, but if you listened to those ETs you'd find they claimed to have settled every planet in the Galaxy and invented everything from sex to thumbtacks. The theories about Atlantis were a lot more realistic, and this might well be a lost Atlantean colony. But the humans had died out. And the nearest thing that had developed from the monkey line to replace them was the creechie — a meter tall and covered with green fur. As ETs they were about standard, but as men they were a bust, they just hadn't made it. Give 'em another million years, maybe. But the Conquistadors had arrived first. Evolution moved now not at the pace of a random mutation once a millenium, but with the speed of the starships of the Terran Fleet.

"Hey Captain!"

Davidson turned, only a microsecond late in his reaction, but that was late enough to annoy him. There was something about this damn planet, its gold sunlight and hazy sky, its mild winds smelling of leafmold and pollen, something that made you daydream. You mooched along thinking about conquistadors and destiny and stuff, till you were acting as thick and slow as a creechie. "Morning, Ok!" he said crisply to the logging foreman.

Black and tough as wire rope, Oknanawi Nabo was Kees's physical opposite, but he had the same worried look. "You got half a minute?"

"Sure. What's eating you, Ok?"

"The little bastards."

They leaned their backsides on a split rail fence. Davidson lit his first reefer of the day. Sunlight, smoke-blued, slanted warm across the air. The forest behind camp, a quarter-mile-wide uncut strip, was full of the faint, ceaseless, cracking, chuckling, stirring, whirring, silvery noises that woods in the morning are full of. It might have been Idaho in 1950, this clearing. Or Kentucky in 1830. Or Gaul in 50 B.C. "Te-whet," said a distant bird.

"I'd like to get rid of 'em, Captain."

"The creechies? How d'you mean, Ok?"

"Just let 'em go. I can't get enough work out of 'em in the mill to make up for their keep. Or for their being such a damn headache. They just don't work."

"They do if you know how to make 'em. They built the camp."

Oknanawi's obsidian face was dour. "Well, you got the touch with 'em, I guess. I don't." He paused. "In that Applied History course I took in training for Far-out, it said that slavery never worked. It was uneconomical."

"Right, but this isn't slavery, Ok baby. Slaves are humans. When you raise cows, you call that slavery? No. And it works."

Impassive, the foreman nodded; but he said, "They're too little. I tried starving the sulky ones. They just sit and starve."

"They're little, all right, but don't let 'em fool you, Ok. They're tough; they've got terrific endurance; and they don't feel pain like humans. That's the part you forget, Ok. You think hitting one is like hitting a kid, sort of. Believe me, it's more like hitting a robot for all they feel it. Look, you've laid some of the females, you know how they don't seem to feel anything, no pleasure, no pain, they just lay there like mattresses no matter what you do. They're all like that. Probably they've got more primitive nerves than humans do. Like fish. I'll tell you a weird one about that. When I was in Central, before I came up here, one of the tame males jumped me once. I know they'll tell you they never fight, but this one went spla, right off his nut, and lucky he wasn't armed or he'd have killed me. I had to damn near kill him before he'd even let go. And he kept coming back. It was incredible the beating he took and never even felt it. Like some beetle you have to keep stepping on because it doesn't know it's been squashed already. Look at this." Davidson bent down his close-cropped head to show a gnarled lump behind one ear. "That was damn near a concussion. And he did it after I'd broken his arm and pounded his face into cranberry sauce. He just kept coming back and coming back. The thing is, Ok, the creechies are lazy, they're dumb, they're treacherous, and they don't feel pain. You've got to be tough with 'em, and stay tough with 'em."

"They aren't worth the trouble, Captain. Damn sulky little green bastards, they won't fight, won't work, won't nothing. Except give me the pip." There was a geniality in Oknanawi's grumbling which did not conceal the stubbornness beneath. He wouldn't beat up creechies because they were so much smaller; that was clear in his mind, and clear now to Davidson, who at once accepted it. He knew how to handle his men. "Look, Ok. Try this. Pick out the ringleaders and tell 'em you're going to give them a shot of hallucinogen. Mesc, lice, any one, they don't know one from the other. But they're scared of them. Don't overwork it, and it'll work. I can guarantee."

"Why are they scared of hallies?" the foreman asked curiously.

"How do I know? Why are women scared of rats? Don't look for good sense from women or creechies, Ok! Speaking of which, I'm on the way to Central this morning, shall I put the finger on a Collie Girl for you?"

"Just keep the finger off a few till I get my leave," Ok said grinning. A group of creechies passed, carrying a long 12 × 12 beam for the Rec Room being built down by the river. Slow, shambling little figures, they worried the big beam along like a lot of ants with a dead caterpillar, sullen and inept. Oknanawi watched them and said, "Fact is, Captain, they give me the creeps."

That was queer, coming from a tough, quiet guy like Ok.

"Well, I agree with you, actually, Ok, that they're not worth the trouble, or the risk. If that fart Lyubov wasn't around and the Colonel wasn't so stuck on following the Code, I think we might just clean out the areas we settle, instead of this Voluntary Labor routine. They're going to get rubbed out sooner or later, and it might as well be sooner. It's just how things happen to be. Primitive races always have to give way to civilized ones. Or be assimilated. But we sure as hell can't assimilate a lot of green monkeys. And like you say, they're just bright enough that they'll never be quite trustworthy. Like those big monkeys used to live in Africa, what were they called?"


"Right. We'll get on better without creechies here, just like we get on better without gorillas in Africa. They're in our way.... But Daddy Ding-Dong he say use creechie-labor, so we use creechie-labor. For a while. Right? See you tonight, Ok."


Excerpted from The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin. Copyright © 1972 Ursula K. Le Guin. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Word for World Is Forest (Hainish Series) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the far future on the pristine world of New Tahiti is a wilderness Eden that Captain Davidson and other earthlings want to exploit for profit. He has already begun cutting down the trees. If it means the primitives die so be it as collateral damage often occurs when yumans conquer Mother Nature. The native Athsheans are horrified over being massacred and enslaved. However, the vilest crime by the off-worlders is destroying the forest as their Word for World is Forest. Fearful of this new powerful God who is brutal on their former forest deity and on them, the Athsheans know there is little they can do but obey as violence is not in their make-up although Selver tries to lead an insurgency, which only further threatens his people's way of life. This book was published over thirty years ago; long before Avatar. The story line is fast-paced while using a science fiction base to make a case that the "White Man's Burden" left Africa ruined and places like Tahiti devastated. Still relevant after all these decades, readers will appreciate Ursula Le Guin's classic novella of bloodthirsty avaricious outsiders destroying a peaceful Eden for profit. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay, that may be a little hyperbolic, but really these are incredibly thought provoking and gery entertaining
soulfulpsy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I realize I am in a minority regarding this book, but I found it to be one of the most profound and disturbing books I have encountered. One aspect of this is Ursula K. Le Guin's physical descriptions, particularly the one of the forest on p. 35. A second is the development of the aliens on the planet: This is the closest I have found that anyone has come to creating a mind that is significantly different from the human mind. Yes, there are qualities about Selver and his species that have enough overlap with those of humans that they can be understood as senescent, intelligent creatures. Yet there are also features that seem nearly impossible for me to identify with. Some of the latter tie into the third aspect of the book that I found quite marvelous and this has to do with the world-time vs. the dream-time. Le Guin is pointing to a different mode of perception here, one that corresponds to Alfred North Whitehead's perception in the mode of what he called "causal efficacy." This mode is much closer to a meditative state, characterized by receptivity without filtering for factual truth. And it can be associated with the mysterious process involving the realization of truly novel forms -- a sort of ultimate creativity. Le Guin's aliens refer to this as "roots." The one serious criticism I had was that Captain Davidson's character was close to a caricature. It is not that there are not people like him in the world, but the other major characters had some depth, at least enough to make their actions plausible. A small development of his "backstory," of things that hinted at why he turned out the way he did. Finally, in my view (and I would imagine others), James Cameron owes a major debt to Le Guin. His movie Avatar borrowed key features from this novel by Le Guin.
apatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good short books are profitable reads, therefore great ones are greatly profitable. I am thinking of the time invested in reading the entire book and the pleasure, inspiration or education gained from them. This book clocks in at 189 pages but Le Guin made every word count. Like most of her works this is a thought provoking story. What happen when we introduce evil into a hitherto innocent and passive culture? I suspect the movie Avatar is inspired by this book because of the similarities in the main theme. Le Guin's story is much more sophisticated of course.This is the third Le Guin book I have read this year, the other two being The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia and The Left Hand of Darkness. Of the three The Word for World is Forest is my favorite. At this length I'd recommend it to anyone.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This short novel is a retelling of the story of the Fall of Man from Eden, but set in Le Guin's Hainish universe and written in her very readable style. The Eden is a forested planet 27 light years from Earth called Athshe, and the innocents are ape-like, green-furred cousins to humankind. They live in a utopia under the forest canopy, in harmony with nature and one another. Violence is unknown to this society.Then people arrive from a severely resource-depleted Earth, and as we are wont to do, we immediately set out to destroy paradise. We cut down the forest and enslave, rape and murder the natives. From us, the Creechies (as they are derogatorily called by the colonists) learn how to fight and kill, and then they fight back. But this isn't just a black-and-white tale of evil humans and innocent aliens. In learning how to be violent, the Creechies are changed. Not only do they now know how to fight humans, but they have also learned how to fight one another. And once knowledge is acquired, it cannot be forgotten. So by fighting us, the Creechies become more like the humans they seek to defeat. Le Guin's take on this very old story is thoughtful and fresh (even though it was first published 35 years ago). I really enjoyed this quick read, as I enjoy pretty much everything I have read by her. I'm glad it was reissued in a really beautifully designed paperback edition.
aleahmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a far distant future the resources of Earth have been exhausted. To survive humans must travel to other planets, gathering necessary resources and shipping them light years back to their overpopulated home world. This story is about what happens when the materialistic and militaristic Earth humans encounter an indigenous population quite contrary to what they know.This is only the second book that I've read from the Hainish Cycle but I already know I'm going to enjoy the whole series. I studied anthropology in college and the anthropological context of these novels alone is enough to keep me hooked. In The Dispossessed we learn about the cultures on Urras and Anarres. Anarres is a colony of utopian anarchists who fled the materialistic (very Earth-like) culture of Urras. In The Word for World is Forest we meet the Athsheans, who seem to resemble little green Ewoks. They are a loosely organized population of tribes with no central government. They're pacifists, knowing nothing of war or murder, until the human colony comes with their gift of death. The Word for World is Forest follows the same archetype as Avatar or Fern Gully, short-sighted man exploits and nearly destroys an untainted world that they can't understand. No matter how many ways I hear that story it always kicks me in the gut and makes me want to go hug a tree.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Venturing out in new waters, this time science fiction. Or, I should say, old waters, as science fiction was all I read when I was twenty. Though I somehow missed LeGuin. Winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards for science fiction, this book is a tragedy. The author enters the minds of both the new colonists and the original settlers of New Tahiti. The new colonists make assumptions about the original settlers who they call creechies and de-humanize them in their minds. The original settlers cannot comprehend the actions of the new colonists, their violence, their destruction of the forest. Only one colonist and one settler become friends and work together to understand the other group, but their peoples do not accept this understanding and the worlds collide.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At times charming and at other times quite disturbing, Le Guin's tale of a planet being razed for wood to be shipped back to earth and the revolt of the native inhabitants is completely compelling. The Anthsheans are short, green, humanoid creatures who have mastered the art of dreaming and live in peacefulness with each other. By contrast, Captain Davidson, a Terran human, is a total ass. It takes a lot of talent for someone as evolved as Le Guin to write from the point of view of such a disgusting character. I never thought I'd find myself rooting against humans and for aliens, but in this book, one has to. It takes just as much imagination to write from the point of view of Selver, the Anthshean who leads the revolt and saves his world. I am incredibly impressed by this book and enjoyed reading it very much, as I have all of Le Guin's work I've read so far.
naomaru on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A brilliant, brilliant book. This book invokes beatiful images and takes you to a trip on another planet. Very deep.
RebeccaAnn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm shocked that there is actually a science fiction novel with little green aliens out there! And it's a good book, on top of that!It takes one hell of an author to make you actually hope that the human race is defeated. And yet, that is exactly what Le Guin does. In this short little book, you experience the invasion of the Athshean homeworld by humans (or yumens, in their language). The humans have enslaved the Athsheans, or creechies, as their referred to. The humans have enslaved the creechies and use them for labor: primarily cutting down trees. The world is one giant forest and the entire ecosystem thrives by it. Not only are the humans destroying the world, but they make a habit of torturing the creechies. Their women are frequently raped and one general seems to greatly enjoy castrating rebellious males in public. Naturally, the creechies rebel and the book is the story of them winning their planet back.It's a powerful little tale, but a sad one. It's also kind of confusing, as are most of Le Guin's works. The Hainish cycle consists of seven or eight interrelated books that don't really follow each other. You can start anywhere in the series and more or less understand things, but you're always going to be missing a few things. If you're interested in the book, I'd recommend keeping Wikipedia open just in case you need to reference a term (or an alien race or planet...)A must read for any science fiction lover.
Jim53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This Hugo-winning novella describes the exploitation of the world Athshe by human visitors desperate for its wood. LeGuin's Athsheans are fascinating, particularly in their distinction between the "world time" and the "dream time." Adults require daily periods of dreaming to maintain their sanity. Adepts can shape their dreams and direct them in desired paths. The Athsheans also have no wars; violence is replaced by an odd form of singing contest.Just as "Earth" denotes both the planet and the mud of which it is (and we are) made, so "Athshe" denotes both the planet and the forest. Hence the title, reputedly supplied by Harlan Ellison, and Selver's statement that "they are cutting down the world." The humans enslave captured Athsheans and log the forests. One Athshean, Selver, whose wife is fatally raped by the human officer Davidson, attacks Davidson and is beaten badly. Selver becomes one of the central characters, an agent for change among his people, who has learned that the humans must be repelled and that war is the only way to do it.Davidson is the other main character. I am torn between saying that LeGuin's characterization is somewhat subtle, and bewailing the fact that Davidson has no redeeming characteristics. He is the dark side of the human occupation, and given the time when the book was written and LeGuin's protest activities, it appears that the book is her attempt at purging the Viet Nam war from its domination of the national news and her consciousness. LeGuin gives in to her tendency to strident earnestness, which she has controlled much more successfully in other works. In spite of its flaws, TWfWIF is well constructed and told, and the dreaming activity of the Athsheans is a fascinating addition to the lexicon of characteristics of alien life forms. LeGuin's style is well suited to the story and the characters. A short but powerful story.
crcoord1 More than 1 year ago
A precursor to the Planet of the Apes series? Good book, didn't think it was anything "award-winning", sorry Ursula!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth reading! As are all of LeGuin's books. this one tells partially of the origins of the Yeuman society.
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cb_2009 More than 1 year ago
An excellent story and writing. I cannot believe I did not discover Le Guin sooner. I highly recommend it. It's very thought-provoking and disturbing. If you like sci-fi, fantasy, and anthropology - this is for you. Also, the director of Avatar acknowledged this novella as an inspiration for the film. So if you like that then should definitely read this.
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Peter Sparklin More than 1 year ago
Short and engaging. A great read that deserves multiple visits.
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The publisher's note mentions the bloodthirsty yumens well, these military men (specifically, the lead character) aren't just bloodthirsty--they're fanatical. The allegorical connection of this story with the Vietnam War gives it power and resonance, but depicting the occupying force as slave-owners pushes the reference too far. It's one thing to question whether the reasons for going to war are justified, and quite another to suggest that we should never fight any war because the men who fight are inherently evil. Of course, we should do everything possible to eliminate war altogether LeGuin's feminist solution is to completely reorganize society along matriarchal lines (depicted in her later novel 'Always Coming Home') this radical ideology informs her depiction of the army man (in some scenes he's nearly foaming at the mouth), and, in my opinion, mars an otherwise excellent novel. The story of the natives is far more interesting than that of the occupying force. Maybe she felt the need to amp up the action, given some of the criticism she received for the mellowness of her previous books she just went too far the other way is all. Overall, I recommend this book to lovers of quality science fiction it is interesting and exciting to read.