The Wind's Twelve Quarters

The Wind's Twelve Quarters - Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. LeGuin is an acknowledged master writer in fantasy and science fiction for a reason, even more so, she is a writer who excels beyond the limitations of those genres. 'The Wind's Twelve Quarters' collects Le Guin's "seventeen favorite stories" circa 1975 and tracks her development as a published author over the previous decade.

The only novels I've read by Le Guin so far have been the original 'Earthsea' trilogy, a work I've always thought was overemphasized. I've read many of her stories, and have a copy of 'The Left Hand of Darkness' in waiting to read, and so far I've been amazed at her talents and her imagination.

The Earthsea trilogy had a lot of interesting ideas, the scale hinted at behind 'Tombs of Atuan' gave me chills when I first read it, but overall there didn't seem to be enough there. In her stories, however, her ideas and characters loom large.

In this collection there are early glimpses of Earthsea as well as two stories set within her Hainish future timeline. It is the two final stories that make the collection however, placed at the end due to the time written but as extra emphasis on LeGuin's mastery of her craft. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" and "The Day Before the Revolution" are haunting and enlightening.

In the introductions to each story LeGuin often commented on her differences from other Science Fiction and Fantasy writers - her methods don't simply explore what-ifs and the impact of technology or magic, but the psychological affects of such things. It is there that Le Guin proves herself the equal of other celebrated authors outside the scope of genre. Too often are certain authors pigeonholed into categories and not allowed to expand, and too often is shoddy writing excused because it is for a genre audience. Le Guin proves better than all that.