I did not want this to end. I feel a bit bereft, and very emotional, and somewhat fragile (even if Rokkanon's World had prepared me for the possibility). And in awe. Dazzled in awe of how Le Guin can weave this beautiful settings to address concepts, limitations, canons of society, give them new perspectives and lead into discussions well before their time.
She did warn in a way, in that introduction. Because, it might be that I had late access to the Internet, and so was somewhat cut out from the world-dialogue, but it looks to me that talk of gradients and varieties of sex and sexuality (beyond the ever polemical homosexual, bisexual or trans-gender, and those as isolated phenomenons at that), is pretty recent. Yet here it is, served as a "fait acompli" in the form of a world where gender has always been a fluid thing, when it's even a thing, and the protagonist just has to deal, get over and past it, once and for all. Let me tell you, I had some fun mocking the MC over his inability to accept, because at some point, it annoyed me. Which is exactly the point of the book, I think.
Tied to that, all the issues of friendship, love, miss/understanding, acceptance, and what have you, in an epic sprinkled with back-ground myths and wrapped up in a sci-fi package. And by all the literary muses, I loved it.
it was necessary to keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose, at least when the air was forty or fifty degrees below freezing. When it went on lower than that, the whole breathing process was further complicated by the rapid freezing of one's exhaled breath; if you didn't look out your nostrils might freeze shut, and then to keep from suffocating you would gasp in a lungful of razors.
Under certain conditions our exhalations freezing instantly made a tiny crackling noise, like distant firecrackers, and a shower of crystals: each breath a snowstorm.
*wince* This is making me ache with cold by proxy. Good summer read I'd say.
On a usual day we would have pulled for eleven or twelve hours, and made between twelve and eighteen miles.
It does not seem a very good rate, but then conditions were a bit adverse.
You don't say... (he's not even referring to the cold, the confident bastard)
"In danger, honor," he said, evidently a proverb, for he added mildly, "We'll be full of honor when we reach Karhide…"
Estrevan is made of awesome.
A friend. What is a friend, in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon? Not I, locked in my virility:
There is quite a bit to address on the fallacy of this one. As in, not the author's, but our own society, which is reflected in the text: this expectation of binary, and how it messes up what would be consider friendship when it is not met, which is pretty stupid, and a throw back to the old "can man an woman be friends?". It's been subtly pointed out, every time Genly is repulsed when Estrevan exhibits what he considers feminine traits or though patterns. He can't be sexually attracted, but he can't consider the other a friend then. Sad, huh?
This went places I did not expect it to go.
For so short pages, I though it'd make a straight story of what we know would be the subject matter, with a tension building, a reveal and a violent resolution. Those elements where there, after a fashion, but not in the order or at the page number a reader would expect. I was surprised, and pleasantly so. For me, it was a truly horrifying read.
It takes a bit to get to the Island, setting up the atmosphere, and the MC's seeming passiveness or detachment, but also raising some interesting questions with the aftermath of that shipwreck. Things come to a head early and the story follows from those into unexpected paths.
Moreau could have made fast friends with Megele. After that lengthy explanation, when I though I had grasped his cold evil, there were still little pockets of surprise horror to make me shudder, like:
He told me they were creatures made of the offspring of the Beast People, that Moreau had invented. He had fancied they might serve for meat,
Gah! Every time I read it I'm swamped with a wave of... Ick!
I kept thinking back to Frankenstein. The moral burden is a lot less debatable here: Moreau is the indisputable monster. Actually, it's a bit like human nature is the monstrous part. Like the bit about the leopard?
It may seem a strange contradiction in me,—I cannot explain the fact,—but now, seeing the creature there in a perfectly animal attitude, with the light gleaming in its eyes and its imperfectly human face distorted with terror, I realised again the fact of its humanity.
And Prendick seems to subconsciously think it so too, given his sequels. I feel for the guy. Seriously, I was melancholy by the end. Talk about connecting.
Hats off to Wells for this one. Even if he need a synonym dictionary, because "presently" appeared more times than the characters' names combined.
What could it all mean? A locked enclosure on a lonely island, a notorious vivisector, and these crippled and distorted men?
He did point out that he had been starved and weakened by the whole boat ordeal, so he has a pass. Mostly because there were some awesomely dry observations before this, like
and to tell the truth I was not curious to learn what might have driven a young medical student out of London. I have an imagination.
And creepy descriptions, and this bit of existentialist paragraph
I was set apart from those nameless ones with whom I had fled down a dark road and whose lack of identity I had shared all night in a dark room. I was named, known, recognized; I existed. It was an intense relief. I followed my leader gladly.
Mother of all introductions!
LeGuin talks about what a sci-fi writer is supposed to be (she actually relegates that typical non-readers perception to a sub-field: "strictly extrapolative science fiction"), what a fiction writer is, and an artist, what sci-fi is about, truth, and words, and wow, lol.
I was about to add some bit of quote or other, and realized I have about ten from the intro alone.
Opening of the book then:
I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.
About every-other line is a quotable observation, a stab at societal mores, a joke, or all of the above. Algernon's being the most egregious. Prime case would be
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
I had fun, and I reckon the rising level of ridiculous would be even better watching it performed.
I have to say, this one really swept me on the undertow. My brain is a bit fuzzy after all those hours of intense reading. Classic book hangover.
The next thing I have to say, is that the prot is a huge egotistical dick. Funny, charming, engaging, likely quite intelligent, given his job. And in this cluster-F of a case for all around, the most fucked up person of all.
I also though a lot about what I remember from my childhood, and how much gets lost in the years. I get this anxiety to start keeping a diary.
And kept sounding that King's quote in my head
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 - Jesus, did you?
There is a lot I'd like to comment on, but it'll be spoilers all around, so really, really, REALLY don't click if you have not read the book.
The thing is, for all the personal vs character stuff (which sounds ranty but actually enriched the experience for me, lol), I had a grand time. I could not put it down. It is strong in voice. It has hilarious passages, and lovely ones (specially on friendship, as adults and as children), and of course, disturbing ones. And it is absolutely gripping.
Whew! Done. Sleep now.
This poor fool... this stupid bastard. He's burning all his bridges, and letting the devil lead, and doesn't even realize it. I want to beat his thick head with the book to see if he wises up before all goes to hell. It's getting harrowing because I suspect he'll have that cold water-bucket coming down on him too late.
“You’ll find a way,” I said. The idea of her as a secretary was ludicrous; what the hell was Devlin thinking? “A scholarship or something. It sounds like you’re good.”
She ducked her head modestly. “Well. Last year the National Youth Orchestra performed a sonata I wrote.”
I didn’t believe her, of course. The lie was transparent—something that size, someone would have mentioned it during the door-to-door
Man! You are being a naive moron! Dicing on other women? Disliking them if they are secure, or have another male's attention? Saying her sister told lies, and then telling them herself? Painting herself as a victim? You are suffering from male blind-spot.
“Cheers, lads. Thanks for inviting me over. Here’s to a quick solve and no nasty surprises.”
Oh, Sam. I'd say that wish is already down the drain, and you are the only one that doesn't know it.