Ursula K. Le Guin
Starscape, Sep 2003, 5.99, 179 pp.
The planet Victoria was founded as a prison colony, but the original mission expired. The descendents of the prisoners and guards/wardens evolved into two prime groups: the Shantih farmers and those who live in the City. The agricultural residents of Shantih believe in independence for the individual and peaceful coexistence as a group. Bosses reign over the City and employ force to severely rule over the farmers.
Tired of tyranny, some farmers decide to begin a new colony far away from their oppressors. However, the Bosses believe that one escapee could destroy their positions of power. Luz, daughter of the Big Boss of the City, knows oppression first hand though she has lived a relatively pampered life. She decides to grasp at freedom at all costs by joining the rebellious farmers.
Ursula Le Guin's “Earthsea” books were some of my first fantasy novels so this reviewer has a special bias for one of the genre greats. THE EYE OF THE HERON is a reprint of a late 1970s tale that occurs on another world, but nothing unique really makes the reader feel that they are off-planet. Still, the key cast members, especially Luz and her father, come across as genuine, so that the audience sees the quest for independence and few societal restrictions and intrusions on two levels, that within a family and that between two castes with one enjoying the fruits of a dominant position that they refuse to cede (South Africa before Mandela). This still remains a solid work of fiction just not science fiction.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner