The Word for World is Forest: Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin’s amazing sci-fi masterpiece, The Word for World is Forest, explores what it means to be human.

In a future where humans have met outer space humanoids or beings of intelligence, culture, community, and language.  In other words, beings that are more like us than we are like animals or plants.

The novel explores community, military, hierarchy, power, slavery, war, murder, gender, identity, transcendence, dreams, and culture change.

Le Guin introduces us to a world named New Tahiti that humans are colonizing … and where the local humanoid race isn’t accepted as fully human.  Culture differences make negotiation and discussion difficult for the radically dissimilar peoples.  Humans enslave the rather submissive people of Athshe, mistaking their docility for ignorance and simplistic thinking.

The goal of humans on New Tahiti is to set up a imperialistic colony that will become a permanent human settlement and provide resources, the most common being lumber, back to Earth.

The story is told in several chapters with each chapter being narrated by one of three characters, a human military commander named Captain Davidson, a researcher of the native inhabitants employed by the military named Raj Lyubov, and a recently widowed, native Athshean named Selver who becomes a god to his people.

Le Guin’s book has many similarities to James Cameron’s famous movie, Avatar.  In both Avatar and The Word for World is Forest humans are taking resources from a planet and thereby destroying the native people’s habitat, scientists and military officers have conflicting agendas, important neurological or mind connections between beings, and the costs of war.

However, my opinion is that The Word for World is Forest is more sophisticated, realistic, and demanding for it’s readers.  It is a book that questions what being an outsider and different really means, whether we are talking about men and women, Caucasians and Asians, or humans and humanoid aliens.

The Word for World is Forest: Ursula K. Le Guin: 9780765324641: Amazon.com: Books.

Daily Life in Korea 45

My students told me they thought I could be 42 or 7 years old.  Other guesses included 21, 25, and 29.

They also told me about their favorite handsome Korean celebrities.  And that they watch 19+ videos even though they are elementary students and 6th graders.  And Lady Gaga videos-which are disturbing ordinarily but especially strange to a country where 18-25 year old women still wear pastels and talk like babies, and the group you belong to defines you more than personal characteristics.  You never have to figure out who ‘you’ are in Asia.

All in all, glad it is another Friday and I can escape the crazy on the weekend.

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