Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
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****The Other Wind

by Ursula K. LeGuin

Reviewed November 3, 2001.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2001
Harcourt.  2001.  246 pages.  Available at Sembach Library (JF LEG).

Several weeks ago, I reviewed the Earthsea books by Ursula K. LeGuin, so you will understand why I couldn’t wait for the library’s copy to come, but ordered my own from

This is a sixth book about Earthsea.  The others are A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, and Tales From Earthsea.  You really should read the others (including the recent Tales from Earthsea in order to appreciate this one--it would give away parts of the other books.

With that said, I don’t think I need to tell much about the book.  If you’ve read the other books, I don’t think you’ll be able to keep from wanting to read this one.  As the others, it’s full of magic and wisdom, and it helps us better understand the climax of Tehanu

One thing did disturb me.  Like The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman, one of the central ideas was setting the dead “free.”  (I’ll be vague about details so as to not give away too much.)  As we saw in The Farthest Shore, the dead of this world exist in a dry, dead land, where they don’t even recognize their friends.  I agree that this is a horror.  Philip Pullman, who is an avowed atheist, had such a place, but then the dead were set “free” to become part of the ongoing world.  Ursula LeGuin used something of the same idea here.

This disturbed me.  Doesn’t mankind dream of heaven any more?  Is all we want to cease to exist, for the elements of our bodies to nourish the world after us?  Or to be reborn as another creature--still not even recognizing our nearest and dearest?

Somehow, I can’t get excited about that kind of “freedom.”  Still, Ms. LeGuin did hint about “the other wind.”  Perhaps it wasn’t only for the dragons.  To be honest, it’s not entirely clear to me what would happen to the dead after the book ends, only that it’s better than the dry land.

As for me, I think it’s time to reread The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis.  Now there’s a picture of heaven that I can get inspired by.  “Further up and further in!”  An eternity of learning and growing could be a wonderful thing.  I’m not going to buy the idea that an eternity of existence would be a horror.  Nor could I be comforted by an idea that those I love cease to exist or become something entirely different, no longer knowing me.  It bothered me to read two books in the space of a year that offered such a sad view of eternity.  Is mankind lowering its sights?

I still couldn’t help but love the book.  It’s by Ursula LeGuin.  But it did leave me feeling disturbed.

Review of the other Earthsea books

Reviews of other books by Ursula K. LeGuin:  
Changing Planes


Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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