The Wind’s Twelve Quarters & The Compass Rose. Book Review

by Ursula K. Le Guin
Gollancz. p/b. £9.99

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

From Gollancz’s SF Masterworks here we have two collections of short stories from one of science fiction’s most prolific authors, titled here as Ursula K. Le Guin. There is a forward from the author herself but what makes this edition particularly worth the investment is her own introduction to each story. In those we are treated to background details, wonderful insights and explanations on any revisions since the original publications.

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters brings us some of Le Guin’s earliest ever published short stories, spanning the first decade of her writing career. Gollancz’s compiled edition also gives details of when and where each story was first published. In The Compass Rose Le Guin’s introduction explains how the stories have been arranged in order around the compass and again gives context to those included.

Among the collections we are invited to muse over the human psyche, use of technology, progression, relationships, analysis. We have classic Le Guin – the importance of true names, wizards, dragons. We are gifted nostalgic warmth with Semley’s Necklace, which served as the prologue for the novel Rocannon’s World, and with a couple of early tales from Earthsea. And in Le Guin’s earliest works we are treated to a more romantic view of science and relationships.

Some people love short stories, others are more indifferent, and no short story suits all. Whether you are not satisfied unless there is a complex twist, whether you crave great depth, or whether you prefer short and sharp or short and sweet, amongst these two thought-provoking collections you will certainly find something that reaches you.

For me the stand out here is from the second collection. In The New Atlantis we find a society that is the polar opposite of our own in many ways and a narrator that pushes against it, craving a better existence, a better rule, even as she is thrust along with the unyielding ideas and fears of the one she is victim of. There is a great deal to be found among these pages, and this is certainly a collection to make you think, and dream.