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Gifts
Ursula K. Le Guin
Harcourt, 300 pages

Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin was born in 1929, the daughter of a writer and an anthropologist. She published her first novel, Rocannon's World, in 1966. Her fourth novel, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, a feat she repeated with The Dispossessed (1974). The Earthsea trilogy established her as a master of fantasy as well as science fiction. She has also published poetry and short story collections, and she received the Pilgrim Award in 1989 for her critical writings.

Ursula K. Le Guin Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Voices
SF Site Review: Voices
SF Site Review: Gifts
SF Site Review: Gifts
SF Site Review: The Lathe of Heaven
SF Site Review: Tales from Earthsea
SF Site Review: The Telling
SF Site Interview: Ursula K. Le Guin
SF Site Review: The Other Wind
SF Site Review: The Telling
SF Site Review: The Dispossessed

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

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Gifts Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of dozens and dozens of books, most of which I love and have on my home bookshelves. This novel is not one of them. In spite of nicely fleshed out characters, the story takes too long to unfold. The first quarter of the book reminded me of several books in the Old Testament that give the genealogy of families by telling who begat whom and so forth. On the other hand, these chapters did give a good overview of the variety of gifts that existed.

The idea of being born with some kind of magical gift is intriguing. However it is never fully explained why only the people in the Uplands have the gifts. People in the Lowlands have not the gifts and consider those in the Uplands to be witches. Gifts can range from the ability to kill with a word, call animals for the hunt with the mind, cure with a touch, sickness to death with a whisper, etc. Gifts run truer if families marry within the family. I couldn't help but ask myself if that wouldn't bring about a generation of idiots.

In the end, Orrec and his girlfriend Gry learn some important things about gifts. One, we all have gifts. Even though Orrec has no "gift" for unmaking (death), he learns to write poetry and stories during the period of time wherein he keeps himself hidden for fear of hurting someone with the gift he does not possess. (It is only in the last chapters that Orrec realizes that he has no "gift" at all). He finds he has a gift for story telling (no pun intended). Gry's gift works both ways. She can call out animals for the hunt, an activity she spurns, or she can use her gift to communicate with animals to train them (horses, dogs). So, how a gift is used should be determined by the owner and not the community.

In all fairness to Ursula K. Le Guin, here are the awards won by this work: An Amazon.com Top 10 Editor's Pick for Teens, A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Winner of the PEN Center Award for Fiction, A Parent's Choice Silver Honor Winner and A Booklist Editor's Choice. An impressive list indeed.

(This review first appeared on Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.)

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at lostbooks.org (under construction).


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