(1997) Ursula K. Le Guin, Vista, £5.99, pbk, 252pp, ISBN 0-575-60175-2
Politics in the wider sense has always seemed to intrigue Le Guin, and with this volume of four related novellas she returns to this arena as she explores the nature of freedom and the relationship between master and slave. The tales in this fine quartet are set on the two planets of Werel and Yeowe. Werel is the master, Yeowe the slave, but the two societies reflect this relationship in more ways than the immediately obvious. Werel seeks recognition to the Ekumen, Le Guin's form of pan-galactic civilisation, whilst Yeowe seeks merely to be free of the former oppressor. As usual, Le Guin writes with a cultivated and civilised scalpel, taking apart and exploring personal goals, dreams, beliefs and myths. At all times, the larger poltical struggle is beautifully mirrored by personal struggles and the reader is drawn further towards a destination always intended. I have to say that I'm surprised it has taken Le Guin so long to deal with this directly. Although not overtly feminist, this book is ultimately about the relationship between man and woman in a culture where there are very pure and exact limits as to what each gender may be.
Matt Freestone gives his take on the book here.
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