A biweekly series, The Ursula K. Le Guin Reread explores anew the transformative writing, exciting worlds, and radical stories that changed countless lives. This week we’ll be covering City of Illusions, first published by Ace Books in 1967. My edition is part of a three-book collection Nelson Doubleday, 1978, and this installment of the reread covers the entire novel.
In the previous novel of our reread, we encountered the planet Werel and the struggle by descendants of the original Terran colonists to coexist with the indigenous Werelians at a moment of intense socio-political upheaval. Planet of Exile is a great example of the social-science turn in science fiction during the New Wave of the 1960s and exemplifies Le Guin’s concerns with how knowledge gets made and how cultures interact. Le Guin’s next novel, the beguilingly titled City of Illusions, furthers her interest in these subjects, asking not how knowledge gets made, but how can we trust that knowledge—what knowledge can we trust in a world of competing ideologies, myths, religions, politics, cultures, etc.?