Rocannon’s World, published in 1966, is Ursula Le Guin’s debut novel and the first in her Hainish Cycle – one that goes on to include some of her most famous works; The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. This is a quick little romp that blurs the lines between science fiction and fantasy (as Le Guin has said herself: “But of course fantasy and science fiction are different, just as red and blue are different; they have different frequencies; if you mix them (on paper–I work on paper) you get purple, something else again. Rocannon’s World is definitely purple.”) and strongly evokes a LOTR feeling as the characters adventure through a series of events. Rocannon’s World opens with a short-story-esque prologue about Semley’s Necklace, in which Semley goes in search of a family heirloom and finds herself with the Claymen. They take her on a trip to retrieve the necklace that seems to last only a night, but upon returning to her family she discovers she was away a lot longer than she imagined.
The story then begins with Rocannon, an ethnographer and the man that gave Semley her necklace in the prologue, who is studying the planet Semley lives on, many years in the future. Rocannon becomes stranded when a spaceship from Faraday, a rogue planet that is enemy to the League of All Worlds, blew up his spaceship and the rest of his crew. He then sets off in search of a secret Faraday base in order to attempt to get a message to the League about the location of the enemy and possibly secure himself a rescue from a planet that he considers to be barbaric in comparison with his own highly advanced society. Along the way he encounters many unique alien species, which was my favourite aspect of this novel and the part that reminded me most of LOTR. This book could easily be fleshed into an equally popular series of movies, though given Le Guin’s prior experience of book-to-movie adaptations totally butchering her work, I can see why she’d be highly hesitant (check out the Adaptations section of her Wikipedia page, the Earthsea interpretations were particularly disappointing).
This book is really short, and while the writing is gorgeous it does feel a bit sparse. I liked it that way though; short and punchy. I lol’d a little when I discovered the origins of the term ‘ansible’ which was later referenced by Card in Ender’s Game as coming from an “old book”. Oh sci-fi, you are such a neat genre.