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July Books 28) City of Illusions

28) City of Illusions, by Ursula Le Guin

One of Le Guin's early books, which I had not previously heard of; I thought it was rather impressive, though. Set in a far future depopulated American continent, the protagonist, Falk, has appeared out of nowhere with no memory and goes on a quest to recover / discover his identity. The first half of the (short) book is an Odyssey-style journey across the continent, the second half, after his arrival in Es Toch (the city of illusions in the books's title), is his attempt to outwit the sinister Ching and fulfill his quest. It is a little pulp-ish in design and execution, but I really am surprised not to have heard more about this as part of Le Guin's œuvre.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2007 08:06 am (UTC)
Is the continent America? I wasn't even sure the planet was Earth.

I loved the book though - I think it was that book that persuaded me to read the Tao Te Ching. I so love her use of language.

"The word that can be spoken, is not the eternal word"

What really puzzles me in retrospect is how I knew it was the Tao Te Ching as I'm fairly sure that she doesn't name it.
Jul. 18th, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)
Is the continent America? I wasn't even sure the planet was Earth.

There's an explicit reference to California, and the topography of the trip is clearly meant to be from the Midwest over the Rockies to (probablty) Oregon.

I don't think she names the Tao but she comes very close to doing so, so you can't really miss it.
Jul. 18th, 2007 11:42 am (UTC)
and besides, the Tao that can be named is not the real Tao.

...I'll get my coat.
Jul. 19th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
You know that she published a translation of the Tao Te Ching, right? (She doesn't know Chinese: she worked with a Chinese scholar. But it is her use of language... :-)
Jul. 18th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
If you'd like, that novella is published in a collection of three along with "Rocannon's World" and "Planet of Exile". "Planet of Exile", which follows a just-barely-surviving colony and their relations with the locals on a world where one full year lasts for about 60 earth years (i.e. most people will only live to see one full cycle, complete with a brutal, 20-year-long winter), is probably my favorite of the lot. It's published as "Worlds of Exile and Illusion".
Jul. 18th, 2007 11:13 am (UTC)
I've read Rocannon's World, years ago, and liked it a lot. The eponymous Planet of Exile sounds a lot like the protagonist's home planet in City of Illusions - is there an explicit link?
Jul. 18th, 2007 11:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, the link is pretty clear. Having read them in order, the place the protagonist of City of Illusions describes sounds exactly like Planet of Exile. It seemed really clear to me that he's supposed to be from there, all the way down to his odd eyes.
Jul. 18th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)
I only read her The Wind's Twelve Quarters this year and was impressed with most - not all - of the stories. Before that I'd only read the Earthsea books and The Right Hand of Darkness.
Jul. 18th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC)
I love The Wind's Twelve Quarters - well, almost all of it.
Jul. 18th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
That's one of those books I tried to read when I was far too young for it, in a crappy Dutch translation as well and it put me off LeGuin for years. Haven't tried it since.
Jul. 18th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
That's the book I learned about the Dao De Jing from, when I was a kid. I think it is a precursor to Always Coming Home.
Jul. 18th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
City of Illusions was my second Le Guin, having read The Left Hand of Darkness and being most impressed. I was still at school when I read them, and that was not yesterday.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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