30 Day Challenge #15 : Favourite book dealing with foreign culture

15 Sep

Well… Since most of the books I read are either from the US or UK, I suppose technically they all deal with a foreign (to me) culture.

So I am going to look at this question in a more extreme way and talk about my favourite book dealing with an alien culture.  Which is about as foreign as you can get. 😉

images2 There are many great fantasy and science-fiction books which create and deal with foreign cultures.  Examples that spring to mind are the Culture stories by Iain M. Banks, The middle-earth stories of J.R.R. Tolkien, and pretty much any work of speculative fiction that takes place in a different time or place to our own.

But to my mind the greatest example would be the works of Ursula K. Leguin.  Her Hainish cycle is a work of genius, for the simple reason that it creates a mythical culture and universe (The Ekumen, and Hain), and then introduces it to us by contrasting it to the various alien cultures it interacts with.  The planet and cultures of Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile and The word for world is Forest  are all very different, and we get to view them in contrast to the equally foreign Hainish culture. 

TheLeftHandOfDarkness1stEd And The Left Hand of Darkness…. pure GENIUS!  Not only does it contain some beautiful examples of soft science fiction and exploding cultural norms, but it introduces us to in essence two local cultures (Karhide and Orgoreyn) and we watch as the protagonist, the Hainish Envoy Genly Ai, tries to make sense of them with reference to his own understanding of life from the Ekumen and Hainish life. 

Le Guin doesn’t just teach us about foreign/alien cultures, she makes us examine what make us who we are, but comparing it to who others are. 

And she writes a pretty good book too!

Learn more about the 30 Day Challenge here.

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1 Comment

Posted by on September 15, 2011 in 30 Day Book


One response to “30 Day Challenge #15 : Favourite book dealing with foreign culture

  1. theycallmemoseley

    September 15, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I like culture. Even culture from Earth can be alien. inventing your own gives the challenge of imagining all aspects. it’s also a way of questioning and commenting on your own culture, by contrasting them. Thanks for this post, I might look up some of the books you mention.


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