As mentioned above, this is the second book in Le Guin’s Hainish cycle, and the follow up to her debut novel Rocannon’s World. This book was fleshed out a little better than RW, and you can see how Ursula was beginning to develop as an author and include more politics into her writing. There is an element of Romeo and Juliet in Planet of Exile; it takes place or Werel, where an Earth colony has been stranded for 10 years. They are slowly dying out as fewer and fewer children are being conceived and, due to a policy regulating the introduction of technology to primitive planets, they are unable to advance their small society. In the cold season (which last 15 years) the humanoid hilfs migrate nearer to the human settlement to ride out the cold temperatures. The hilfs fear the earthmen, calling them farborns, and believe they are witches. One day a young female hilf – the daughter of one of the chiefs – finds herself stranded in the farborns territory and meets the leader of the farborn’s colony. They fall in love. As a group of nomadic raiders moves closer to the two settlements, the farborns insist that they make an alliance with the hilfs so they can fight together to save their people. Things seem to be moving forward until word breaks of the love affair between the chief’s daughter and the leader of the farborn colony, and then things break apart due to widespread racism. There were many great concepts here that weren’t developed to their full potential (race, homosexuality), but the seeds were there for Le Guin to grow into a hugely popular and wildly intelligent author down the line.
The latter half of the novel involves a lot of fight scenes as the battle is fought between the hilfs and farborns and the nomadic raiders. Then it just sort of ends. I did really like it and though it was just as quick as RW it set up the events for the following novel City of Illusions. Thumbs up.