Not to turn this journal into a constant Le Guin lovefest, but I finished up her anthology The Birthday of the World yesterday. Even when she’s at her weakest (the title story, for example) she’s pretty damn good.
But I wanted mostly to blog impressions of the last, long story (novella) in the book, ‘Paradises Lost’. Because it is so outstanding, and because it’s not a story of hers that I hear talked about much. It is a story about a ship from Earth travelling to a new planet, and the ‘middle generations’ – the generations that have never seen Earth, and may not see the new world.
Some of the voyagers have, by the time this story starts, with the fourth and fifth generation, invented a new religion which makes the continuation of the voyage the purpose of existence (“bliss”). And some still want to reach their new destination, exchange their state of innocence for experience. A war in heaven ensues (quite a gentle and moderately conducted war, this being a Le Guin story, but terrifying nonetheless).
I can’t say enough good things about this story, but I’ll pick out one moment: when the main female character, carrying her baby, steps out on the new planet (leaving the ship is called “doing eva” – DOING EVA, FOLKS!), the sense of banishment is overwhelming. How gutsy is Le Guin as a writer? It’s like, “OK, I’ve done Milton. What next? Oh, yes, Vergil.”
I’m now reading Octavia E Butler’s Kindred, a time travel story in which a black woman and her white husband fall through time from 1970s America to antebellum Maryland. I have been dying to read this book for ages, and then it came through via BookMooch just after Christmas. I’ve been so excited about receiving it that I’ve not been able to start reading it until now. This copy has come to me from Iceland, via Finland. BookMooch is a wonderful thing.