Author: Ursula K. Le Guin (introduction by Shruti Swamy) –
Publisher: HarperAudio –
Genre: Science-fiction, Post-apocalyptic –
Overall rating: 4/5 –
Writing: 4/5 –
Duration: 23:10 (very long) –
Narrators: Yareli Arizmendi,
Isabella Star LeBlanc –
Narrator/performance: 5/5 –
Impressions: 3/5 –
Performance errors: 1/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 5/5 –
This is a 1985 book, with the original “Music and Poetry of the Kesh” recordings and an extra pdf for download. It is clear that performing that book, as published in 2023, was a great challenge. It is a complicated Ursula K. Le Guin production, quite unlike her other masterpieces. It is set around imaginative, hermetic ideas expressed in a constructed language. While this is perfectly fine in speculative fiction, here, the number of these ideas is very great. Ursula used different inspiring forms and mediums to immortalize her world, making the reader almost ready to embrace a new faith, set up camp and change the course of history. It feels almost possible. Yet there is also the feeling of an overworked creation, an impression of toil. The book lacks the light touch so characteristic of Le Guin’s style. What I also found annoying was the devotion of both lectors to their subject. They certainly performed extremely well but there is a hint of sacrament, of religious ecstasy. This made me uneasy. By the time the audiobook was finished, I more or less skipped the music materials and quickly changed genres. Perhaps it is a book for younger, enthusiastic readers but then again, why would it be so academic for such an audience. It is a strange book and a strange production. It has a lot of charm and Le Guin’s original wisdom but both are somehow scattered. Would I recommend? Obviously I would, but only because it is Le Guin whose even most scattered wisdom is always worth studying.
The cover is not a good one. The subject is rather heavy, organic and deeply rooted in various native cultures. There is not even a hint of that on the cover. While the message is misleading, the picture seems also slightly amateurish.