Review: Rocannon’s World [Hainish Cycle #1] 2/5 (1)

June 6, 2019
Title: Rocannon’s World
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: Fantasy/ Sci-Fi
First Publication date: 1966

Summary:

A world shared by three native humanoid races – the cavern-dwelling Gdemiar, elvish Fiia, and warrior clan, Liuar – is suddenly invaded and conquered by a fleet of ships from the stars. Earth scientist Rocannon is on that world, and he sees his friends murdered and his spaceship destroyed. Marooned among alien peoples, he leads the battle to free this new world – and finds that legends grow around him even as he fights.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Sci-Fi books so I feel a bit rusty in commenting. When I went through Ender’s Game and Speaker of the Death I was so hyped that I couldn’t put them down. It was strange, the jargon took some getting used to but still, it was super entertaining. Things were a bit different with Rocannon’s World by Ursula Le Guin.

    Despite being written in two different genres, this book and the Earthsea cycle’s books are strikingly familiar. Same author, eh? For some that may be a plus but I feel like I am reading the same thing with different characters and slightly different setting.

    A plus, I would say, is that they are both easy to read and provide with extensive details on world-building which is great — you can really envision everything. In Rocannon’s World there is a lot written about the different races even though at the end I still can’t tell them apart — one are tall with dark skin and blonde hair, one are shorter with light skin and dark hair and there are two or three more types of races but I can’t even recall those. I remember the bat-vampire people, they were easy to remember 😀  Maybe it is may attention span that needs fixing or maybe it was the way it was written — the variations were too similar to stand out.

    The other thing was that in this book there was some tech talk that I guess makes it Sci-Fi (and space travel and alien confederations, duh) but for me it just felt like numbers and words and stuff jumbled together. Not that I am a rocket scientist or anything but I expect that when I read something it would make sense — even if it is fiction. I’ll do another comparison with Ember’s Game by Orson Scott: it all made sense there. From the space shuttles, life on space ships, drills and training and even alien races and wars. Rocannon’s World is more of a fantasy with hints of space travel and aliens (which is not bad per se but gave me the wrong impression when I saw its genre as Sci-Fi).

   So a bit about the story itself…

   The beginning was kind of confusing. It starts with Rocannon, who is the main character of the book, in his museum watching a strange woman with dark skin and golden hair. And then we jump into a flashback/backup story info dump and we’re in the woman’s head learning who she is, how she got to that museum and what she wants. And the moment she plays her role she disappears, only to be mentioned in passing a couple of times. Then we switch back to Rocannon. I know this was written in ’66 but good/bad writing is good/bad writing no matter how much time it passes and this was annoying to read. Further on, there are more POV jumps in the middle of chapters for a few paragraphs or sentences which, it seems, is normal for Le Guin, but which makes me want to hit things. A matter of preferences, I guess, but it didn’t work for me.

    After reevaluating the relationship with the planet of the blonde woman Rocannon sets in motion changes that get out of control. Due to his people not maintaining contact with the races on that planet, the planet is invaded by a fleet of ships that pretty much burn cities and villages and kill the people in them. Some of those people are Rocannon’s scientific team which sets him on a quest to stop the invaders of doing more evil. Nobody knows what they want, who they are or where they come from, just that they are bad. Nobody cares either, apparently, since those questions are never answered.

    As Rocannon sets out to find the bad guys and fix his wrong, so to speak, there are some minor battles and exciting moments, but just as it was in Earthsea, it was pretty low key and at times — downright boring. The so called ‘battle’ with the bad guys at the end was so anti-climactic that the no matter what the outcome could have been I would have been disappointed. It’s true what she wrote, what can a single man do against an army, but c’mon, this is fantasy/sci-fi. We don’t want to read about blisters from walking or what kind of grass they were eating all the way. We want excitement.

    There was another thing that pushed the wrong buttons for me, and it was the fact that Rocannon felt so artificial and all-powerful that the whole plot was almost pointless. He either always had the right knowledge or the way to find it, some awesome powers that appear in just the right moment or all the right guides and helpers to get him from point A to point B in one piece, with cherry on top. It just felt… easy. And this made me feel cheated somehow, and definitely not as invested in the other character’s demise as I could have been. I honestly didn’t care when they died and it looked like Rocannon didn’t either.

   I’ll give it 2/5 stars. I was not particularly impressed and it didn’t really grab me. I’ve read that this was Le Guin‘s very first book so that may be the reason but I do think she can and has done better. I hope the next one proves that 🙂

   What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Rocannon’s World?

What do you think?

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