A Fisherman of the Inland Sea
17 November 2014 Leave a comment
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Summary: This new collection of short fiction by one of America’s most honoured authors celebrates her understanding that narrative is the shining thread with which we create our common humanity.
In A Fisherman of the Inland Sea Le Guin has assembled a far-reaching catalogue of wonders, and she uses them to illuminate the earth on which ordinary women and men live. Astonishing in their diversity, her stories exhibit both a major writer at the height of her powers, and the humanity of a mature artist confronting the world with her gift of wonder still intact.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5
Review: My first encounter with Le Guin was when i picked up The Dispossessed. I loved the setting, the genre and the topics explored in that book, and was interested in reading more of Le Guin’s work. So, when i found this book while browsing the sci-fi and fantasy section in the library, i picked it up. When i saw it was a book of short stories, i was sold.
The book has a really strong start with, with an introduction titled On Not Reading Science Fiction where Le Guin talks about why people may claim they don’t like science fiction, and what aspects of science fiction genre they are missing out on by focusing on the “science” rather that the “fiction” part of the name. As Le Guin herself puts it:
Even in its ungainly and inaccurate name, the “science” modifies, is in service of, the “fiction.”
The stories themselves started off sketchy. I enjoyed The First Contact with Gorgonids and its feminist commentary. Newton’s Sleep was okay; i liked the ideas it was exploring, but the story itself did not hold my interest. The Ascent of the North Face was a joke i did not get. The Kerastion i found quite dull while it seemed to want to be so meaningful.
The Rock The Changed Things was the first story i really loved in this collection. It stayed with me for days after i read it. As well as loving words, i am a very visual person. The idea of coloured rocks forming patterns used for expression and communication that was completely missed by more “intellectual” people, and what that expression brought about was wonderful.
It was the last three stories, The Shobies’ Story, Dancing to Ganam, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea that truly stood out as the best of the lot. I have to talk about these three stories together because, although they are three independent stories with their own distinct narratives, they are all linked and in each story, the world they are set in grows a little. At the heart of all of them is the idea and development of instantaneous travel, across a laboratory, across a campus, across a planet, across space. This is simply the backdrop to the stories, but with each story the world evolved more in my mind.
I found The Shobies’ Story quite slow going, and was in fact more interested in the travel aspect than the characters and their small community and connections; i felt the story went on a little too long. The last two stories were the longest, but i think for that, were the most well-developed. Dancing to Ganam was a little slow to get going, but once it did, i was lost to it. I could see the end coming, but that didn’t take away from the story as it played out.
The star of the book, though, undoubtedly, was the title story, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. There is a lot of explaining about the world the book in set on, and about how relationships and families work, but it was interesting to read about four-way bisexual polygamous marriages being the socially acceptable norm, and people who choose to have a monogamous relationship being shunned and looked down on. It was when the narrator, after describing his world, started his story, that the book became impossible to put down, and although i had planned on stopping, i had to stay up and finish it.
As mediocre as the ratings i have given both this book and The Dispossessed are, Le Guin is definitely an author i will read again. I love her stories, the concepts and the settings. I just also think there is more potential in them; they could be a little more exciting, a little more interesting, a little more gripping. Just, a little more.