The Word for World is Forest

Mass Market Paperback, 144 pages

English language

Published Feb. 7, 2005 by Tor Teen.

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4 stars (9 reviews)

15 editions

(Anti-)Colonialism in Space

4 stars

A novella about colonialism and fighting it, but also about ecology, indigenous knowledges, dreaming and waking, perception and reality, and hope in the face of seemingly overwhelming power.

LeGuin is scarily good at making colonialism tangible from both the perspective of the colonised and the coloniser, and she's doing so in her usual unpretentious and precise way.

After reading lots of white male apolitical hard sci-fi, this was a breath of fresh air – or, as the Athsheans would put it, sanity.

Highly recommended.


5 stars

Genuinely amazed by how much Le Guin fits into what's pretty much just a novella. Colonialism, racism, environmental destruction, and toxic masculinity, sure, but also musings on the mental machinations therein. Particularly appreciated the way she plays with language -- the chapters from the point of view of the humans, particularly the truly awful Davidson, are brutal, while the chapters from the point of view of the Athsheans start off lyrical, almost dreamlike, but change over the course of the book as their ways of thinking are polluted by the Terrans. Highly recommended.

Learning nonviolence

3 stars

I don't generally enjoy science fiction, and although I do love Ursula le Guin's theory and ideas I have never managed to finish any of her books before this one. Her writing is good, but I find that science fiction often gets too tied up in hammering home its analogies without remembering to tell a good story. The Word for World is Forest does not have this problem.

Ostensibly, this is a novel about two races of human. The first are Terrans (from Earth) who have landed on a distant planet and are cutting down its rich forested surface because there is no wood left on Earth. The other are Athsheans, who are colonised, enslaved in all but name, and are being forced to live their lives in a "terran" way by sleeping at night and working in the daytime, for example. The book weaves in the injustices of settler …

Krieg im wald

4 stars

Das buch behandelt kolonialismus, hat also viele sehr gewalttätige und rassisitische szenen. Die geschichte ist eigentlich ganz einfach: 2 gruppen menschen, die in sehr verschiedenen umgebungen aufgewachsen sind, treffen aufeinander und hauen sich die köppe ein. Trotzdem war es spannend zu lesen, denn die Athsheaner haben eine interessante art, an die dinge heranzugehen.

Review of 'The Word for World is Forest' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This is a short book with a simple premise and story. It's told very well through 3 separate viewpoints. The characters, though clearly defined, appear somewhat two-dimensional. Perhaps, though, this is just a limitation of the short nature of the story, at just barely 200 pages. Still, I enjoyed it for its simplicity. The similarity to so many other stories (humans conquering natives, which rise up against them) made it feel a tad derivative, though bear in mind that this was written in the 1970s so perhaps it was seen as fresh and new among the science fiction community back then?

For a full review, see my blog:


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