The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, Ursula K. LeGuin

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters collects 17 of Le Guin‘s stories originally published in the ’60’s and early ’70’s. In a foreward, Le Guin describes the book as a “retrospective” collection. Even though we now know she had more than 30 years of writing still ahead of her, the description is apt as the stories show significant developments in her style between the earlier and later ones.

Le Guin’s first sale, “April in Paris”, is here, for example. It’s a somewhat run-of-the-mill time travel story that will certainly be remembered as a competent first sale, and not as a display of all of Le Guin’s eventual talents . Other early stories such as “Darkness box” and “The word of unbinding” are written in a stilted, archaic voice that detracts from the stories themselves. In “Semley’s necklace”, apparently one of the earliest Ekumen stories, the stilted language is distracting, but does have its use in distinguishing the local culture of a somewhat backward planet from that of the galaxy at large.

In later stories, though, the stilted language is somewhat smoothed out, and the themes become more abstract, leading to stories with nearly poetical qualities. “The stars below” and “The ones who walk away from Omelas” are probably the best examples of this development.

Overall its an enjoyable collection, showing the early stories in Le Guin’s two main sequences (Ekumen and Earthsea) as well as the development of Le Guin’s style in her first decade of publishing.

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