Planet of Exile

Before this week I had not read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin (Take a look at her list of genres she writes in. “Vegetable Fantasy” sounds like quite a facinating genre), though I had been told her work is quite exceptional. The book I chose to be my introduction to Mrs. Le Guin, Planet of Exile was one of many that I inherited from my father’s personal library. It was actually published (in this edition) eleven months before my birth.

Planet of Exile was actually the shortest novel I have read in many years, coming in at under 120 pages. The brevity of this work didn’t limit the story in any way. It was well paced and felt quite complete, as satisfying as many longer works. The writing style struck me as minimal, though it never felt inadequate.

The story itself was one chronicling conflict between three races of humans of varying degrees of advancement. The two most advanced, with one race being obviously less technologically advanced, had to find common ground and cooperation in order to defend their homes against the invasion of the third, more numerous race. Much of the initial conflict was focused on the two races and the tension that kept them from working together, and then moved on to a battle for survival.

The second major thread of the story involved a romantic relationship between a man of the “farborn”, alien race and a native woman that was forged and tested in the conflict between their peoples and later in the conflict that joined the two against their common enemy. This relationship highlighted the very small differences between the peoples quite deftly. Afterall, it was revealed, they were separated by only “one molecule in the hereditary chain.”

The novel seemed to be an exploration of the false separations we create between the peoples of our world. Nothing exists that should divide people that is not a fabricated obsticle. In times of strife, which we undoubtably are now, it seems to say, we must discard our conflicts and work towards survival and mutual comfort.

While learning about Ursula K. Le Guin, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she had written her own version of Tao Te Ching. Her personal vision of the work was given the rather lengthy title of Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way. A review on states that “Acclaimed author and poet Ursula K. Le Guin has attempted a nonliteral, poetic rendition of the Tao Te Ching. She brings to it a punctuated grace that can only have been hammered out during long trials of wordsmithing. The wisdom that she finds in the Tao Te Ching is primal, and her spare, undulating phrases speak volumes. By making the text her own, Le Guin avoids such questions as “Is it accurate?” By making it her own, she has made it for us–a new, uncarved block from which we are free to sculpt our own meaning.” This definitely appears to be a book I would very much like to read, both as an admirer of Mrs. Le Guin and as a student of the Tao Te Ching.

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