My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Moving Exploration of Competing Ideologies
Even when humans are shipped to uninhabited alien worlds, with no hope of ever going back to the Earth, they can’t seem to leave behind the old ways.
The Eye of the Heron takes place on a penal colony planet of Earth called Victoria. There are two different groups of people: the City people and the Town people. The City people are more industrial, and they force the more rural Town people to work for them, produce food for them. The City people are martial; the crimes that brought their forebears to Victoria from Earth are left unsaid. The Town people are pacifists; their crime for which they had to leave Earth was their desire for peace.
The two main characters of the novel are Lev, a young man from the Town, and Luz, a young woman from the City. They knew each other at school, but they have gone on to live different lives. The conflict of the novel begins when the people of the Town find a new land, and desire to leave their bonds to the City. The City refuses to let them and threatens them with force, and the Town resists with non-violence.
One thing that usually sets Le Guin apart for me is her ability to interweave both setting and culture so that the very wind soughing through the trees, or goshawk soaring overhead, are so profoundly important to the characters and the plot. And in this regard, The Eye of the Heron does not disappoint.
It is a beautifully written, imaginative story, anchored to humanity with its deep exploration of non-violent resistance, and its effects on a society based on shame and keeping face.
That said, it’s on the short side, and seems to drop the conflict at the end a bit prematurely. There is no real resolution between the cultures, just hints of what might happen. I feel like it was definitely wanting a bit more at the end. That’s what determined my vote between four and five stars. Other than that, I thought it was an excellent book.