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A rather laid-back novel by Le Guin, tracing the life story of a slave boy with very limited powers of seeing into his own future. We are taken in detail through several carefully and intensely described settings - the slave-holding city of his boyhood, a rebel stronghold, his birth village and culture, a flight to freedom which draws from both Huck Finn and Uncle Tom, and finally an enlightened city of learning. She also lucidly shows the narrator's gradually increasing consciousness of the evils of the world around him.

I'm frankly surprised that it won the 2009 Nebula for Best Novel. The only really sfnal bit is the narrator's power of precognition, which isn't actually of any use to him and doesn't make much difference to the plot except to tell us when we have reached the end. There's also a cartooney villain who exits the story rather unsatisfactorily. I would put this down as good but minor Le Guin.

The other novels nominated that year were: Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow; Cauldron, by Jack McDevitt; Brasyl, by Ian McDonald; Making Money, by Terry Pratchett; and Superpowers, by David J. Schwartz. I have to say that of the four I have read from that list, Brasyl stands out by a long way as the obviously deserving winner. The McDevitt is on my shelf; I don't think I have heard anything about Superpowers. It's a good illustration of why the Nebula system so desperately needed to be changed (as I think happened the following year).

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
altariel
Sep. 16th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
I love this book. I wrote a short piece about it that was included in a festschrift for Le Guin's 80th:
http://www.aqueductpress.com/books/80.html
yea_mon
Sep. 17th, 2012 11:13 am (UTC)
Having the power to see into your own future would be very useful, I would think. What limits does LeGuin place on the power?
nwhyte
Sep. 17th, 2012 11:15 am (UTC)
In this case, it's just a few advance glimpses of key moments - rather like deja vu but in reverse, if you see what I mean. So in fact of less practical use than Lovejoy's psychic ability to detect genuine antiques!
yea_mon
Sep. 18th, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
Ah, extremely limiting indeed. There are usually loopholes to be exploited in precognition, like are things pre-ordained or changeable, but with limited views into the future you might have to play a very long game - if it were possible at all.
(Deleted comment)
raycun
Sep. 18th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
Yes, the sequence seems very deliberately low-key, and no worse for it.
nwhyte
Sep. 18th, 2012 02:59 pm (UTC)
No, I haven't; and I take your recommendation seriously!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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