Worlds of Exile and Illusion. Book Review

Gollancz. p/b. 384pp. £12.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

The Eye of the Sea is a jewel worth all the money of a kingdom, but it was stolen. The old midwoman says the Fiia would know where to find it, so Semley, her poor lord becoming more poor by the year, sets off to find the Fiia and retrieve the jewel that should have been her dowry.

Semley is brave and adventurous. She leaves behind everyone and everything she knows in search of a strange and potentially dangerous people. Her quest is successful. She finds the jewel lost so long ago. But poor Semley, when it is time to leave the Fiia and return home, has no idea how much time has passed since she began her quest.

Worlds of Exile and Illusion collects the first three Hainish novels from long time favourite Ursula Le Guin. The first, Rocannon’s World is a plunge into the happy nostalgia of a Le Guin story, bringing back wonderful memories for fans. Planet of Exile and City of Illusions complete the trio.

The three stories are decidedly short by today’s standards but in that sense are a breath of fresh air against the increasingly-striving-for-length-and-complexity backdrop of the modern market. Le Guin handles pace extraordinarily well, as we know, and the stories all move expertly from opening to conclusion.

These three novels definitely fit into the science fiction end of the spectrum, being set in the same universe as The Left Hand of Darkness, but the fantastic elements and characterisation, particularly the examination of behavioural and racial differences that are examined in the stories, are the strongest elements that come across and they are as poignant today as they were on release.