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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Station Zero
Philip Reeve
Progress: 220/282 pages
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition
Ursula K. Le Guin, Charles Vess
Progress: 749/997 pages
The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
Robert Chandler
The Uncertain Land and Other Poems
Patrick O'Brian
Progress: 8/160 pages
The Heptameron (Penguin Classics)
Marguerite de Navarre
Progress: 152/544 pages
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield
John Masefield
Progress: 78/534 pages
Poems Selected
Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes
Progress: 4/50 pages
Selected Poems
U A Fanthorpe
Progress: 18/160 pages
The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse
Mick Imlah, Robert Crawford
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 133/789 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 107 out of 789 pages.

Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2 - Ursula K. Le Guin

The Word for World is Forest


Short and bitter-sweet. Le Guin's tale of abuse of technologically iron-age forest dwellers by space-faring Earthlings captures the horrors and of colonial rule and their causes. The technological disparity is easily understood as necessary and widely recognised but another essential factor is isolation. In Le Guin's case there's a 54 year communications turn-around, making the colony commander an effective despot. As soon as technology reduces this turn-around time to nil, the colonial system colapses because there is effective oversight. Looking instead to actual history, the Viceroy of India could do as he pleased, because the Empress Victoria was months away by the fasted communication method and therefore orders and policy were always behind reality. Add in assumed cultural superiority and the recipe for extreme abuse is complete.


Now, why do I say the book is bitter-sweet? After all the conclusion is that the colony is completely withdrawn and the natives are left to themselves. All is as it was before the arrival of men from Earth, or will be when the trees grow back. But not really - the cultural contact has changed the native people forever - they know what murder and war are now. Cultures can't come into contact without being changed - and in the case of colonial rule, one might be severely damaged or utterly destroyed.