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Worlds of Exile and Illusion    by Ursula K. Le Guin order for
Worlds of Exile and Illusion
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Order:  USA  Can
Orb, 2021 (2021)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I thought I had read everything written by Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018), but definitely missed at least one of this trio. Though not quite up to the superb standard set by her later books, anything by Le Guin is well worth reading. Worlds of Exile and Illusion includes 'Three Complete Novels of the Hainish Series in One Volume - Rocannon's World; Planet of Exile; City of Illusions'. These are set in the same universe as Le Guin's acclaimed The Left hand of Darkness.

In Rocannon's World, humans have made contact with nocturnal troglodyte Gdemiar and small diurnal hominoid Fiia. Now they discover another intelligent species to whom the Fiia bow. Semley is a lovely young aristocrat, who seeks to recover a family heirloom, a stolen necklace. Her quest takes her to space, where her necklace is in a human Museum. She brings it home ... but decades have passed. Her grandson Mogien later helps human Rocannon when he's stranded on their world (invaded by alien enemies) and needs to reach an ansible in Gdemiar control. This is my favorite of the three books.

In Planet of Exile, humans are stranded on the world Werel. The world is about to cycle into a sixty year winter, in which local people usually hunker down in well supplied fortresses. This time will be different as a barbarian wave of the Gaal advances as winter begins. Again, the tale begins from the point of view of a young woman, Rolery, of a nearby tribe to the humans. She's curious about the farborn and ends up mindspeaking, with one and becoming close. But farborn and native people can't have children together. Or can they and will any of them survive the Gaal?

Finally, in City of Illusions, the alien enemy has conquered earth, but help comes from an unexpected source. There are hints of Stranger in a Strange Land in this tale as a man with amber, cat-like eyes wanders our world, trying to regain his memory. This one is a rather rambling, frustrating read at times, but leads to a highly satisfying conclusion, after we learn that this individual was part of a crew that came back to Earth from Werel.

I believe that Ursula Le Guin was the first SF/fantasy writer to author stories combining the genres. She was also the first to address contact and ongoing relationships between human and alien species, and with extraordinary empathy. Serious fans should not miss this trilogy, and will also find Amal El-Mohtar's Introduction illuminating.

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