(North America: Ace, 2001. US$13.95 / Canada$19.99 trade paperback,
UK: Gollancz, £9.99, 264 pages, trade paperback; hardback also
available, £16.99; first published 2000, these editions 30 October
2001. Mass market paperback £5.99, published 17 October 2002.)
What do you do when people won't let you do your job? Won't let you
be who and what you are? Won't let you pursue the dream that led you
across the dark sea of space?
Sutty is a linguist in a world that has recently murdered its own language,
a historian in a culture that condemns history. What she seeks is the
Telling, the lost lore now banned and largely obliterated by the current
regime. But it's not all gone yet ... not quite. She manages to get
outside the dominant culture, slip through the cracks into a region
where the old ways still linger in hidden places. Tiptoe through history,
then; study a language in veiled hints and hooded whispers. What is
the Telling, anyway? History, philosophy, religion, entertainment, education?
It's a little of everything, and not quite like anything; and it's still
Sutty's job to explain the
whole thing to her superiors. Preferably before the ruling powers find
out what she's up to and destroy the remaining fragments.
I'm not a huge fan of thrillers, suspense stories, or mysteries. But
this book is a fascinating puzzle of language and culture -- and for
someone as attached to books as I am, the plot tension is absolutely
hair-raising. The threat of wiping out the entire lore and language
of a people stirs me in ways that no amount of galactic warfare or magical
mayhem can do. I'm not even a major fan of Ursula K. LeGuin; I tend
to find her writing style too spare for my tastes. I couldn't put this
book down, though, and every so often I'd stumble across a phrase of
truly arresting beauty. The tree imagery woven throughout the story
is particularly impressive, and sure to intrigue followers of nature
The Telling is a must-read for xenolinguists and LeGuin fans.
Anyone who enjoys sociological science fiction should give it a look
Review by Elizabeth Barrette.
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