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Le Guin, Ursula K.

The Telling

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The Left Hand of DarknessSutty, an Observer from Earth for the interstellar Ekumen, has been assigned to a new world-a world in the grips of a stern monolithic state, the Corporation. Embracing the sophisticated technology brought by other worlds and desiring to advance even faster into the future, the Akans recently outlawed the past, the old calligraphy, certain words, all ancient beliefs and ways; every citizen must now be a producer-consumer. Their state, not unlike the China of the Cultural Revolution, is one of secular terrorism. Traveling from city to small town, from loudspeakers to bleating cattle, Sutty discovers the remnants of a banned religion, a hidden culture. As she moves deeper into the countryside and the desolate mountains, she learns more about the Telling-the old faith of the Akans-and more about herself. With her intricate creation of an alien world, Ursula K. Le Guin compels us to reflect on our own recent history.
Earthling Sutty has been living a solitary, well-protected life in Dovza City on the planet Aka as an official Observer for the interstellar Ekumen. Insisting on all citizens being pure "producer-consumers," the tightly controlled capitalist government of Aka--the Corporation--is systematically destroying all vestiges of the ancient ways: "The Time of Cleansing" is the chilling term used to describe this era. Books are burned, the old language and calligraphy are outlawed, and those caught trying to keep any part of the past alive are punished and then reeducated. Frustrated in her attempts to study the linguistics and literature of Aka's cultural past, Sutty is sent upriver to the backwoods town of Okzat-Ozkat. Here she is slowly charmed by the old-world mountain people, whose still waters, she gradually realizes, run very deep. But whether their ways constitute a religion, ancient traditions, philosophy, or passive, political resistance, Sutty is not sure. Delving ever deeper into her hosts' culture, Sutty finds herself on a parallel spiritual quest, as well.
With quiet linguistic humor (Dovza citizens are passionate about their hot bitter beverage, akakafi--the ubiquitous Corporation brand is called Starbrew), dark references to the dangers of restricted cultural, political, and social freedom, and beautifully visualized worlds, award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin pens her latest in the Hainish cycle, which includes The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin explores her characters and societies with such care, such thoughtfulness, her novels call out for slow, deep attention. --Emilie Coulter