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    THE TELLING by Ursula K. LeGuin

    Harcourt, Inc., 2000

    When given scientific knowledge by humans, Aka outlawed its old ways and sought a purely scientific march to the stars. Old faiths, old books, old knowledge was banned, destroyed, and hounded out by followers of the Atheistic state religion. Sutty, an observer from Earth, cannot believe all of the old knowledge has been lost but the Corporate State has always forbidden any exit from the controlled cities. When they finally relent, Sutty heads upriver into the primative villages of Aka.

    In the villages, Sutty finds the old faith, but much more. Instead of a religion, the old way is based on telling. Telling stories, telling of what herbs work with what disease, of what meals balance life, and of what exercise balances the body. And she hears rumors of the remaining library, the place where so much of Aka's history is still alive. Sutty is followed by a Monitor from the Corporate State. If she follows her dream and seeks the library, will she destroy it? And is it possible to find a way to preserve what is beautiful?

    Ursula K. LeGuin (see more reviews of novels by this author) has written a beautiful and simple story about a woman's search for meaning. Meaning in her own life, and in the new world she lives in. According to the Telling, even simple stories can hold profound knowledge and insight. A fairy tale can help her understand an entire culture--but only when she understands the culture. Sutty's personal growth, influenced both by those who follow the old ways and by the Monitor who has vowed to destroy them, forms the heart of this novel. For THE TELLING, LeGuin has adopted a simple, spare style perfectly suited both for the message of internal growth, and for the concept of Telling that the novel embeds.

    For Sutty, and for many of those who read THE TELLING, events on Earth form a powerful counterpoint to the way Telling and the scientific Corporate State interact. The Chinese Cultural Revolution of the '60s may have formed a part of the basis for this novel. Certainly the question of whether it could happen here needs to be asked and answered.

    Four Stars

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