Worlds of Exile and Illusion

Ursula K. Le Guin


This collection of three early novels in Le Guin’s Hainish series initially looks haphazard, as if they were only collected because of writing order and not being as well-known as her later works.

  • Rocannon’s World is a serviceable fantasy quest wrapped in sci-fi trappings.
  • Planet of Exile is a tighter story of isolation and people forced together by an invasion.
  • City of Illusions involves a stranger seeking his identity in a post-apocalyptic Earth controlled by unseen alien masters.

But common threads tie them together. Not just her frequent themes like culture clashes, critiquing colonization, challenging racial stereotypes (both in-world and real), and just getting people to communicate. The second and third novels form a thematic duology:

  • A single city of Earth colonists struggles to survive and adapt to a primitive world.
  • A single city of alien colonists controls a primitive Earth they’ve adapted to their own desires.

And you can watch her craft growing stronger over the course of the three novels.

I wouldn’t recommend someone start reading Le Guin here, but I would recommend it to someone who’s familiar with her work.