Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Planet of Exile" by Ursula Le Guin

Author: Ursual Le Guin
Title: Planet of Exile
Pages: 140
Publisher: Ace Books

“Planet of Exile” is the second novel from the Hainish cycle and like the first book “Rocannon’s World” it is similar in length, contents and the fine blend between science fiction and fantasy.

The setting of “Planet of Exile” happens to be the planet Werel, third from the Gamma Draconis system, which is an extremely peculiar world. One year on Werel is equal to 60 human years, which is pretty much the average life length of the Tevarans, who are the planet’s original inhabitants. Like in “Rocannon’s World” the race is primitive with no religion, technology or literacy, while the Earth human colony stranded on the planet have once excelled in all fields, but due to the law of the League of Worlds have been forced to remain on the same level as the inhabiting race. This of course leads to the human degradation in terms of science and technology.

The story begins, when the Autumn season is almost reaching its end and preparations are made for the upcoming Winter season. News of an even more primitive tribe called the Gaals grouping in large armies in order to siege large Winter cities, built anew every year, stirs up the waters and forces the Tevarans, the clan of Wold to be more exact, and human fraction to interact. The relationship between the two races has been limited and tense as humans think of themselves as two evolved to be involved with Tevarans, while the Tevarans fear the humans for their telepathic abilities.

Rolery a young girl from Wold’s clan wanders inside the human city and almost drowns, once when the ocean tide returns fast, but is saved in the last second by Jakob Agat, one of the humans in the City senate. This chance meeting develops into a very strange love relationship with a lot less romance too many inadequate moments and bad consequences for both involved. As the long dreaded Winter comes and the rumors of invasions are confirmed, Tevarans unite with the Earth colony. From then on the book handles the siege of the Earth colony city as it manages to fend off the Gaals.

Personally I didn’t find “Planet of Exile” to be quite as entertaining as “Rocannon’s World” or “City of Illusions” due to the fact that in its core “Planet of Exile” is a military novel. The story starts with preparations for a war, which rages from then on in every aspect with sneak attacks, sieges, slaughters and all in between. Although there are deeper themes such as the evolution and interaction of two different species, which for their own survival have to merge together as much as they don’t want, run on the background. The Earth colony suffer from lack of potency to reproduce as an effect of the unusual sun’s radiation and later near the end it has been shown that they are vulnerable to infections, contradictory to the knowledge that no native to Werel disease or bacteria can harm the Earth colony. The Teverans take a step forward in their evolution with Rolery demonstrating a perceptive mind open to telepathic communication, a talent so far not exhibited by her race. This all leads to the idea that for the Earth colony to survive it has to merge with the native Teverans, which clearly happens as it is revealed in “City of Illusions”.

All in all it wasn’t a bad book, but it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea. I would recommend it to anyone, who likes to read about military strategy and war.


Chris, The Book Swede said...

Glad you're enjoying these, and nice review! :)

The Book Swede

daydream said...

Yup, I haven't read sci-fi before and well this is a nice start.

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