The Word for World Is Forest • 1972 • SF novella by Ursula K. Le Guin


Meta: isfdb. This SF novella appeared 1972 in Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions. It won the 1973 Hugo Award.

Have you seen Cameron’s movie “Avatar”? This reads like a precursor: The forest, natives (though green instead of blue and a quarter of their size), one bad asshole of a military captain, the ultimate surrender of the colony. Even the lucid dreaming of the native Athsheans has its counterpart by the connectness and the Avatar’s tree.

LeGuins literary style with the very slow and introspective parts are quite typical. Every time, I read a work from her, something touches my soul and stays with me – be it the fantasy world of Earthsea or this sample of her Hainish scifi:
The Athshean fluency between lucid dreams and reality lets them wonder if the colonists were insane.
Or the comparison of soil and forest, i.e. Terra and Athshe. Or Selver’s “godness” which brings the new concept of war and murder to the natives.
All those are brought into the story with great subtlety and almost quiet.

I liked the change in tone according to the different viewpoints – most prominent with Davidson and Shelver.

Her political views about the Vietnam wars don’t bother me – they are visible but not as harassing as RAH’s later indoctrinations often are. I just found the insistence funny, that drug consumptions and homosexuality will be accepted in the future.


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