This is a collection of short fiction, 8 stories set in UKL's various worlds and universes. I found them all to be engaging, serious, and good. The first one, Coming of Age in Karhide is set on the world of The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a world I've missed. It was cool to get to revisit it and learn more about the culture of Karhide on Gethen. I won't take you through each story, but suffice it to say that some are sad, others are joyous or funny, but all of them are so very real. The characters etch themselves on one's heart. I spend a lot of time thinking about all of them, and about their cultures and situations, and how they relate to ours.
It's no secret that I think UKL is an amazing writer. This collection reaffirmed that opinion.
* * *
Just reread this one and liked it even more than the first time. I love all the different societies, their very different outlooks on life. One I found particularly haunting is the story of the anthropologist who brings her kids down with her to a world so they can crack open the culture that no adult outsider can really experience. Then the girl becomes one of them, truly, and leaves her family forever. Magic in that society meant wielding power over others, I think, and the girl's anguish at being made to leave and her pleas to be allowed to stay were disturbing and touching at the same time. I felt that I didn't know what was right. I saw her mother's view and her own view both at once. Her mother thought that culture was primitive, but I think the girl and maybe the reader realize that it's actually very advanced.
There were 3 or 4 stories set in a world that had a culture which was as abusive of and limiting for men
as many of our patriarchal cultures are of women. It struck home how messed up, how sick and twisted, it truly is to limit human beings so much. It was painful to watch. It is, it should be painful to watch here too in our culture now.
There was one story from the worlds of Four Ways to Forgiveness, with a character we know called Old Music. It was inspired by a visit UKL made to an antebellum slaver estate here in the States, and the crouch cage, the torture, made a deep impression. No doubt that's an accurate detail from the real slave plantation.
I think I'm going to read the whole book again from start to end, another time. It was really good.