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Reviews of Fisherman of the Inland Sea, a (1994)

Review by spiphany (2009-08-23)
Ar the heart of this collection are the final three stories, which exlore "churtening," a kind of instantaneous travel through space using the power of the mind. Here Le Guin examines how the stories we tell shape our understanding of the world and affect our actions, with potentially tragic consequences. In "The Shobie's Story" the trial of a new technology nearly ends in disaster because the crew members of the ship cannot agree upon what they experienced. "Dancing to Ganam" is a first contact story which shows how easily our unquestioned assumptions about other cultures can mislead us. This story reminded me of Mary Doria Russell's novel "The Sparrow," although somehow less grim, perhaps because of Le Guin's ironic awareness of the pitfalls facing anthropological research. The title story is a moving invocation of choices made and loves recognized too late. That it is also a time travel story is almost incidental.

The rest of the collection is rather mixed, containing a couple of fables, a workshop piece, and some playful manipulation of genre conventions. Many of these stories pick up the theme of storytelling again in various ways. "Newton's Sleep" and "The Rock that Changed Things" are both compelling stories with a hint of moralizing. The rest are fairly minor offerings. Although these remaining stories are worth reading, I can't help feeling like it might have been better to publish just the final three stories in a volume by themselves; as it is, the collection is torn between a selection of loosely related stories and a desire for a greater cohesiveness which is never quite satisfied.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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