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By Katherine on 11-21-12
Not the best place to start with Le Guin
Originally posted at FanLit.
Planet of Exile is a novel in Ursula Le Guin’s HAINISH CYCLE and one of the author’s first published books. In this story, a colony of humans has been stranded for many years on the planet Werel, which has such a long orbit around its sun that one year is like 60 Earth years. These humans, gently led by Jakob Agat, live in a city surrounded by a stone wall. Because of the conditions on Werel, especially the effect of its sun’s radiation on human genes, their colony is dwindling. The humans share the planet with two other humanoid species. They have no contact with the Gaal, a nomadic tribe, and they have a tense but sometimes cooperative relationship with the Tevarans.
The planet is moving into its harsh winter phase, which will last about 15 years. Usually when this happens the nomadic Gaal pass by the human city on their way south. But this year there is a rumor that the Gaal do not plan to migrate, but rather to conquer the humans and Tevarans and take their cities for themselves. Jakob Agat hopes the humans and Tevarans can set aside their differences and suspicions and work together to defeat the Gaal. But when he falls in love with Rolery, granddaughter of the Tevaran leader, tensions flare.
If you’re familiar with Ursula Le Guin’s work, I recommend reading Planet of Exile — it’s interesting to see how this excellent writer got her start. However, if you’re new to Le Guin, don’t start here. Her later work is so much better. In Planet of Exile, her world-building and character development has already improved from what we saw in Rocannon’s World, the first of the HAINISH CYCLE books, but it still lacks the vividness of her later works. For example, Jakob’s and Rolery’s love-at-first-sight relationship has no substance to it. I never felt it and wasn’t convinced that Jakob and Rolery felt it either.
Perhaps this is because Le Guin’s main interest in these HAINISH novels isn’t to tell a love story, but to use science fiction to explore cultural anthropological themes. This is something that she also does better in later novels. Here, as in Rocannon’s World, her races and cultures seem too unnaturally distinct and isolated to be living so close together on the same planet.
I have to say that if Planet of Exile wasn’t written by Ursula Le Guin, I probably wouldn’t recommend it at all, but I love Le Guin’s prose and I find it fascinating to compare her earlier and later works. I think that most of her fans will feel the same way. Planet of Exile is short and simple — an easy read. Again, if you’re not a fan yet, don’t start here; I suggest starting with THE EARTHSEA CYCLE or ANNALS OF THE WESTERN SHORE.
I listened to Blackstone Audio’s version read by the excellent Steven Hoye and Carrington MacDuffie. This was a very nice production. All of the HAINISH CYCLE books are available on audio. Each of them can stand alone, so you don’t have to read them in any particular order, but Planet of Exile acts as a prequel to City of Illusions. I’ll be reading that one soon.
Planet of Exile — (1966) The Earth colony of Landin has been stranded on Werel for ten years, and ten of Werel’s years are over 600 terrestrial years, and the lonely and dwindling human settlement is beginning to feel the strain. Every winter, a season that lasts for 15 years, the Earthmen have neighbors: the humanoid hilfs, a nomadic people who only settle down for the cruel cold spell. The hilfs fear the Earthmen, whom they think of as witches and call the farborns. But hilfs and farborns have common enemies: the hordes of ravaging barbarians called gaals and eerie preying snow ghouls. Will they join forces or be annihilated?
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Darwin8u on 04-30-18
The alienaness between them
"She the stranger, the foreigner, of alien blood and mind, did not share his power or his conscience or his knowledge or his exile. She shared nothing at all with him, but had met him and joined with him wholly and immediately across the gulf of thier great difference: as if it were the difference, the alienaness between them, that let them meet, and that in joining together, freed them."
― Ursula K. Le Guin, Planet of Exile
I'm making my way through Library of America's recent Le Guin Box Set (while listening to the audiobooks). While the books don't have a specific order, I'm letting LOA chose the path. I guess that makes as much sense as anything. I have, however, already read The Dispossessed, so I guess I'm not reading them in EXACT Library of America order. Oh, well.
'Planet of Exile' is the second book in LOA's Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories, Vol. 1. It was originally published in 1966, Le Guin's second published novel (I believe). I love the prose. I love the spareness. I love the empathy of Le Guin's writing. Themes of foreigness, language, exile, belonging, family, history, surge and bubble througout this series. There is always a bit of an imbalance too in these books (I mean so far, I've only read 3 now).
There are usually those who have more knowledge, history, and perspective than other tribes of men. It is how that chasm gets crossed, fused, and understood is where (I believe) much of Le Guin's genius lies. Yes, she is creating her own SciFi universe, but she is doing way more. She is unlocking OUR universe. Ultimately this isn't a Hainish story, this is a story of mankind, told in the form of a fable or tale.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Rainer on 12-14-16
I enjoyed it but not as much as the first one. I didn't get to know the characters as much as I would have liked. Rocannon's World was like that but it was somehow more poetic which made up for that. The readers were good but I have come to expect more variation in tone and pitch to signify the dialog of the different characters.
By Dean on 11-02-15
Short tale of what could be
I realized in reading this book that the lack of references to technological trends helps keep stories timeless. When you deal with; What if we began colonizing a planet with similar peoples who. What would it be like to prepare for decades of winter. Could we resist pushing our technology on all of creation. All without mentioning specific tech you have a story that does not become stale as quickly.
By michael remillard on 10-06-13
A great story
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
It has a fast moving pace and flows very nicely
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes I actually did listen to it all in one sitting
By rolery on 03-02-12
Rolery, oh Rolery
I've read this book many, many times since it's publication in 1966 (telling my age), and I've listened to it quite often on Audible. I've tried and tried, but Ms MacDuffie's narration just doesn't match Rolery's character; I couldn't see her at all. Mr. Hoye's Agat was okay but took a couple of listenings to see him.