The Wind's Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose by Ursula K Le Guin

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The Wind's Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose by Ursula K Le Guin

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rachael Spencer
Reviewed by Rachael Spencer
Summary: A complete mix of short stories by one of the giants of the science fiction and fantasy genres. Fascinating, detailed, and incredibly well written, these tales may not always take you where you expected to go but I think they are well worth the journey.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 592 Date: August 2015
Publisher: Gollancz
ISBN: 9781473205765

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I'll start by saying that I think the SF Masterworks series are pretty much always and without fail a really interesting read. I've bought quite a few from this publisher now and I find they will always pick interesting titles from the science fiction genre, making them a great place to start if you are either just dipping your toe into science fiction for the first time or if you're looking to build up your collection.

Ursala Le Guin is someone whose writing I have been meaning to read for quite some time, but have never been quite sure where to start. When the opportunity came to get a collection of her short stories to review, I was over the moon. I really enjoy reading a collection of short stories for a lot of different reasons, and this was no exception.

The thing which struck me most about each of the stories in these two volumes was how Le Guin managed to build entire, incredibly rich, worlds within the first few paragraphs or even sentences of each individual short piece of fiction. Her descriptions make you feel as though you understand the place you are in as if you have been picked up and put down inside it. Even if you have no idea where each story is going to take you (and believe me, there will be times where you have no idea at all where they are going to go) you still somehow feel grounded enough in the writing to let it take you anywhere. Le Guin is a master at juxtaposing places which feel real with sights and events which are incredibly surreal, and I think this is a fascinating style of writing. The prime example of this being The New Atlantis which opens with the protagonist sitting on a bus, meanding socks whilst discussing a new continent rising out of the Atlantic ocean.

I would say stories such as Darkness Box would tip over more into the fantasy genre rather than that of science fiction, but then I suspect there is often a fair amount of cross over between these two genres. This didn't bother me at all, and in fact I enjoyed not ever being entirely sure what I was going to read next, because it left me on a slightly unbalanced footing which I think was a really good mind set to be in to read Le Guin's writing style. Anything was possible, and I wasn't ready for any of it.

Each story pulled me in within the first page, and even if stories didn't turn out as I hoped, I enjoyed her crafted writing immensely. I found myself constantly intrigued, even just by the first lines, and always wanted to know more, for example The Eye Altering which had opening lines which made putting down the story impossible until I knew what was going to happen next.

What makes this book even more interesting is the fact that notes from the author about her inspiration behind a lot of the stories are written in introduction to the stories themselves. Though only a couple of sentences long, they give quite the insight into not only what gave her the ideas for her writing, but also a little hint at her mind in general, and this makes them a really great addition to the book overall.

The joy of reading short stories is that it is always easier to dip in and out of them, making them perfect to keep in your bag to read for example on public transport. Being able to sit and read an entire story at once gives you as a reader the opportunity to get completely caught up in the moment of the story, without having to get torn away from it before you have had chance to reach the conclusion, and given how these stories take you to such interesting and new places, that works as a real bonus for this particular book – though it is quite the tome to carry around on a day to day basis!

I can definitely see that Le Guin may not be for everybody, but I think anybody with an interest in science fiction and fantasy should probably give her a go, and this would be an excellent place to start. Fascinating, detailed, and incredibly well written, these tales may not always take you where you expected to go but I think they are well worth the journey.

If you're looking for more from Ursula K Le Guin, then there is always The Word for World is Forest, or her more well known The Left Hand of Darkness.

Buy The Wind's Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose by Ursula K Le Guin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wind's Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose by Ursula K Le Guin at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Wind's Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose by Ursula K Le Guin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wind's Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose by Ursula K Le Guin at Amazon.com.


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