The Word For World Is Forest – By Ursula K Le Guin

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Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

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If you want to read any of Le Guin’s books this one should definitely be on your list. Though it probably shouldn’t be the first book, the world will make more sense in the context of the series.

The Word for World is Forest took me by surprise for a number of reasons. For one this book strangely doesn’t get mentioned much by the people who talk about Le Guin’s work. Or such has been my experience anyway. The other reason is this book shifts just slightly from Le Guin’s usual writing style for the Hainish series.

This book follows several narrators and switches POVs more frequently than her other books have.  Usually I dislike this style, but with Le Guin it worked.  Everything flowed very nicely and I never felt like the author was switching because they had to tell the next big plot twist, or because she was bored.

The Word for World is Forest follows Selver (a native of the planet), Captain Don Davidson (an evil military man)  as well as Raj Lyubov (an anthropologist).  Le Guin builds a world where the natives dream and live in trees, and where Terrans come to take all the resources from the beautiful planet without caring who dies in process. We get to see how all three of these men are interconnected and how a world changes when its people are enslaved.

The story is haunting and relevant in so many ways. It made me angry and it broke my heart because it talked about the very real disgusting things humans have done when they colonize. I would give this book some trigger warnings for violence and sexual trauma.

I really liked how this book connected the Hainish world with the other books. We get to see what happened to cause the building of the League of Worlds and why it was necessary.

In the end I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

2 comments

  1. I’d never even heard of this Le Guin book, and I’ve read a decent amount of her stuff. It sounds interesting, though!

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