Always Coming Home

By Ursula K. Le Guin

This work by Ursula K. Le Guin notably differs from most of the fantasy and science fiction novels that have deservedly made her a legend.

Insane masterful in-depth worldbuilding, seems to be the thing here! Always Coming Home is an immersive exploration of a fictional culture; “a liberal utopian vision” exquisitely rendered. I’ve only read a sliver of her oeuvre but it’s clear she’s a master at envisioning creative and generously humanist possibilities for alternate ways of existing on a societal level.

This book is driven less by a linear narrative, and more by the intricately woven culture and history of the people it’s about. It is “a novel unlike any ever written…interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork and music…” A quick look at the table of contents reveals an awesome array of textual material: songs, charts, stories, poems, tales, histories, texts, dramatic works, maps… And, wow, does this book have some cool credits! Composer, artist, geomancer! And maps drawn by the author herself. It’s clear right away this is special; no ordinary novel.

It also contains an extensive “the back of the book” section with appendices on every imaginable facet of this fictional culture, from food to lodging, musical instruments to maps, play to medical practice, notes on narrative modes, details on alphabet and writing system. The complexity of mythology and diversity of forms is astounding; with so much wildly creative material it’s impossible to choose just one or two examples out of the dozens collected here.

Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-0520227354
  • Publisher: University of California Press

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* Independent online book marketplaces. While these sites are often lighter on data / reviews, and thus not the first place to go to learn about a book, they're a great place to actually purchase!

Highlighted Replies

  1. I just bought this last week! Exactly the same aspects attracted me. It’s not so much a text as a whole context. Chris Ware’s “Building stories” is somewhat similar in this regard, consisting of a collection of different types of printed materials that can be read independently and in any order.

  2. I just started reading the first chapter, but also enjoying just browsing through it haha :blush:

  3. +1 virtual book club

  4. I just started reading this book and I have to say, it’s incredible so far! I’m absolutely enchanted by her story-telling and the meandering narrative (meandering in a very good sense, like a stream gently making its way down a mountain).

  5. Aside - Brendan this book looks like a fun read alongside Emissaries!

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