As we learned earlier this week, the wonderful Ursula K. Le Guin died on Monday. Her influence on science fiction and fantasy is hard to quantify, and there’s been an outpouring of grief from people who love her books and stories. Amidst all this, I do have one small confession to make:
I never made it past A Wizard of Earthsea.
When I was in my late teens, I read the first book in the Earthsea series, then stopped. I didn’t connect with the book. I thought it was taking itself way too seriously. The writing was beautiful, but I didn’t know what to do with the characters.
I’m not disparaging Le Guin here. I’ve read other stuff of hers, and it’s brilliant. I’ve just always felt bad that I couldn’t get into the Earthsea books. It clearly wasn’t because they were bad. Were they just not for me? Was I being unfair to them? Was I letting my expectations colour my approach to them? Was I a particularly immature eighteen-year-old who just wasn’t ready for all the solemnity?
Maybe it’s time to try again.
For a while, I’ve been planning a blog series in which I work through a series I should have read decades ago and record my reactions. I was going to start with Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, but I can do those second. The six Earthsea books—A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), Tales From Earthsea (2001), and The Other Wind (2001)—are sitting on my bedroom floor. I’ll read through them, probably quite slowly (and largely on public transit), then publish my impressions when I’m done each one (kind of like Mark Reads, only not chapter by chapter). Even though I’ve already read A Wizard of Earthsea, I don’t remember much about it, so I’ll start there…eventually. I started rereading Good Omens for the billionth time a few days ago, and I can’t stop.
So…on to adventure. And goodbye, Ursula K. Le Guin. Everybody misses you.