Bookshelf spotlight: Hainish Cycle

I’ve been wanting to read more Ursula Le Guin for years. Back around 2012, I remember picking up a couple of her books: Lathe of Heaven and The Left Hand of Darkness. Both were from the SF Masterworks series. I’ve recently finally read the former, but somewhere in my multiple moves I have managed to lose my copy of the latter. I was just getting ready to buy it and more of her novels in the Hainish Cycle, when I stumbled across this box set.

The complete set of Hainish Novels and stories by Ursula K Le Guin

My bookshop ordered it in for me, then after waiting a couple of months for it, the couriers lost it between the bookshop and me. The bookshop ordered a new set, and by the time they got it, I knew I was moving back, so they held it for me until I could pick it up in person last month. I was so excited I had to peel of the plastic and check out the books before I left the shop.

We were all a bit disappointed about the very boring looking volumes. The box had been so promising, and part of me was yearning for the SF Masterworks covers of the individual stories. However, this set does include novels and story collections that I would have trouble tracking down, and it is more important to have them all than to have pretty covers. Though I have to remind myself of this every time I see the pretty covers 😆.

The Hainish Cycle is a set of novels and stories about civilisations of humans on different planets contacting each other for the first time and setting up diplomatic relations. Apparently, the oldest of the worlds is Hain and they provide some type of guidance. Sorry, very vague I know, but I prefer going in to books/series knowing only what is on the blurb of the book.

The Hainish Cycle isn’t a series, they are instead a collection of related books. Ursula Le Guin herself didn’t consider them a cycle, or saga, so you don’t have to read them all, and you don’t have to read them in any particular order. There are some clear connections, some not-so and some digressions. However, since Ursula used to get a lot of questions asking about reading order, here’s the advice she compiled on her website:

  • Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions: read these first because they were written first
  • The Word for World is Forest, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed: read these next, but in any order
  • A Fisherman of the Inland Sea: collection of short stories of which the last three are Hainish, but she warns that there is a story with the same planet name as in the planet from Planet of Exile, but that it is a different planet (apparently she forgot planets between novels 😆). She talks about these, but doesn’t specifically say they should be read after all of the above.
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness set of short stories
  • The Telling

So on this basis, I think I will just read them in the order they are in my boxset.

Now, if only I could give up work and become a lady of leisure so I can find the time to read these, amongst the ever increasing “must be read now” pile.

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