The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. LeGuin

This is a pair of collections of her short stories; I think they’re all reprints, but some (particularly in Volume 1) were new to me.

I started with Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands, which has mostly her science fiction short stories. The Rule of Names was new to me (a fun short story set in the East Reach of Earthsea), as were the following four stories of the collection. It’s hard not to be a fanboy, but all of the stories are crisp and beautifully written. The first stories are familiar, The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas is often reprinted, with great reason. Semley’s Necklace was interesting; I’d read it before, but I was more willing to read it from Semley’s perspective, which improved it for me this time around.

I think I’ve read First Contact with the Gorgonids before, but enjoyed her wry pokes at Jerry this time. So many others were familiar, but it was good to read them again and have them in one place.

Volume One: Where on Earth got off to a strong start. I really appreciated collecting the Orsinian tales; the second Orsinian story is much stronger for following the first with the same characters. Many of the remaining stories were familiar, and most were quite strong. Ether, OR was another story that was new to me–and quite enjoyable, with interesting characters dealing with a very unusual but understated problem.

There’s a really interesting piece at the end, Half Past Four. I might have gone crazy trying to line everyone up, if I hadn’t vaguely remembered her warning in the introduction explaining how the story came about.

This was a pair of books I’ll reread again; it’ll probably take a few reads to get many of these onto my favorites list… but I suspect some will clear that high bar.