City Of Illusions

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paperback, 1983



Call number

PS3562 .E42


Ace (1955), 217 pages


He is a full-grown man, alone in dense forest, with no trail to show where he has come from and no memory to tell who or what he is. His eyes are not the eyes of a human. The forest people take him in and raise him almost as a child, teaching him to speak, training him in forest lore, giving him all the knowledge they have. But they could not solve the riddle of his past, and at last he has to set out on a perilous quest to find his true self--and a universe of danger.

User reviews

LibraryThing member sonofcarc
A sequel to Planet of Exile, several centuries in the future. To my taste, an advance in craft over that book. Purists might balk at the introduction of fantasy elements into a sci-fi story.
LibraryThing member revslick
Ursula is probably one of the best writers around. All of her books bring a sense of truth confronting power and this one is no exception. While this isn't her best work, it does present a unique psychological journey of truth to power. It's primarily one man's journey of self and social discovery as he confronts a system whose weapons are lies with truth.… (more)
LibraryThing member EmScape
A man wanders out of the forest with a severe case of amnesia. The locals take him in and try to teach him their ways, as it is obvious that he is not of their world. When he has learned all he can from them, he must set out across the vast continent toward the city of Es Toch, hopefully to figure out where he came from, why he is there and what happened to his memory. The most important lesson imparted to him from the forest people is to trust no one, particularly the Shing.
Three quarters of the book tells of this man’s journey to Es Toch, and as such is a sort of average questing tale with friends and foes along the way. It is up to our hero to figure out which is which. The ultimate answer he seeks is quite the interesting revelation, as is also what happens after he figures this out. For me, the book really didn’t get good until that final part, and the rest was fair to average. I wish we could have skipped a hunk of the journey and gotten more of the what-happens-next as the ending is just a tad abrupt. Very evocative writing, though, throughout.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This was Ursula Le Guin's third novel, one of the books in her Hainish series that includes the famous Left Hand of Darkness. While I wouldn't rank this with that book or the first three Earthsea books, classics in science fiction and fantasy, this was the first that impressed me as more than routine. With her first novel, Rocannon's World, you could see her authorial voice and themes beginning to develop. Her first book seemed too much like Tolkien's Middle Earth overlayed with space opera though. In clever ways, but still pretty derivative. The second was still rather conventional--nothing radical in its ideas in the way of Left Hand of Darkness, but it was one where the planet's cosmology did do more to drive the plot.

City of Illusions is a direct sequel to Planet of Exile, though you don't know that at first. And this novel was more memorable, had more twists and turns that I didn't see coming, and delivered along the way a good adventure across a post-apocalyptic far-future America. I can also see her philosophy more to the fore in this book. Le Guin did a translation of the Tao Te Ching, and Taoism is said to imbue both Earthsea and her novel The Dispossessed. A passage in the Tao is key in this story, and we even meet a "Thurro-dowist" (follower of Thoreau of Walden Pond and Taoism.) So although I'd still say her great novels were still in her future, this is the one the first one I'd call a standout--well worth the read.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
Maybe I would have enjoyed this more if I had realized it was part of a series.... I didn't dislike it - as always, Le Guin has interesting ideas, good prose, and interesting characters. But I didn't really feel like the book had a point, which might be because I don't know the context of the series.
LibraryThing member felius
This is SF written more in the style of epic fantasy, though at only 217 pages it's limited in scope. An amnesiac sets out to discover the truth about his identity and discovers a plot to dominate and subdue the human race in the process.

I enjoyed this, though I felt it ended a bit abruptly. What happened next?!? Perhaps she's written other books in the same world? I'll have to look into it.… (more)
LibraryThing member comfypants
The narrative could flow more smoothly, and the end is anti-climactic. But it plays with lots of fascinating ideas concerning anthropology, identity, epistemology, and ethics, all neatly entwined into a fairly straight-forward adventure story. Very cool.
LibraryThing member themulhern
Most of Ursula LeGuin's books have as a protagonist a stranger coping with a strange land. As so often in her books the conclusion is not so much rushed as a sudden reversal of previous events or a coda to the main action. This short novel is somehow less satisfactory than its companion novels, Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile. This may be due to the fact that it is set on a post alien invasion earth that has failed and seems somehow pathetic. The character arrives at some conclusions about the aliens that seem basically meaningless. He seems to comprehend their motivations fairly well and by good fortune obstructs their evil designs. As with many of LeGuin's books he must leave the people he loves permanently in order to accomplish his goal, first on foot and then by NAFAL starship.… (more)
LibraryThing member byebyelibrary
This is one of LeGuin's finest works. It is a cerebral puzzle of a story, part Wizard of Oz, part Man Who Fell to Earth. Set in a future Earth where mankind has been colonized and degraded by a parasitic alien race called the Shing, the book tells the story of Earth's last hope, a man who is only half human. LeGuin's style and themes are profoundly distinct. She is a genre writer that transcends her genre so completely you forget she is a genre writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member RBeffa
"City of Illusions" follows Le Guin's "Planet of Exile." This is almost like two different books patched together. I really liked the first half of the book. It is set in a dystopian future of earth, at least 1,000 years in the future and probably several thousand. Human settlements are small and widely scattered. There are reasons for this which the reader is told, but we really don't understand. Much of history has been lost. Much has been preserved. Some of it may be not a true history. There is a big mystery here. The first half of the book is primarily a journey across the North American continent of the future and how it has reverted and the odd settlements and peoples that live sparsely across it. We follow a man named Falk who is in search of his own personal history in the far west. Exactly where I was never sure. Somewhere past the Rockies and before California. California is no more, apparently now only remnant islands with flooded valleys post-earthquake. The second half of the book takes place after Falk arrives at the place he sought, "Es Toch."

I was caught off guard by what is revealed in the second half of the novel. I as the reader certainly knew something was up and we are given clues, but the big reveal still surprised me more than it should have. Although I enjoyed the latter half of the book and liked how it tied in to elements of the preceding novel, it didn't really have my interest like the early part of the novel did. Still, overall I liked this story and appreciate how the first three novels fit together here.

I probably liked this one the best of the first three novels
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LibraryThing member juniperSun
An early LeGuin--I would not have believed she would publish such stereotyped characters. Seems to be preparation for Hainish novels. I picked it up because she is one of the authors I look for, but I'm not sure I'll keep it.
LibraryThing member melydia
A strange man with no memories is taken in by a rural community for years, until one day he decides he must travel west to find his past. The pacing is very uneven: pages slog by with nothing happening, and then suddenly in the middle of a sentence everything happens at once, and then you're back to slow and boring again. The concept was interesting, where you're never quite sure who the enemy is or if they even exist, but it was not one of Le Guin's best.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
Best book by Le Guin yet. At least as good as left Hand of Darkness a post-galactic empire apocolyptic earth. The hero moves from barnarism to futuristic city across a modified North American Landscape. Enough hints at localities and references to the Hainish cycle all in a coherent and philosophocal read. Very enjoyable.… (more)
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
A man with amnesia appears in the forest but his eyes are not human eyes. The forest people took him in and taught him everything they know but he wants or needs to find out about his past. So he sets out for Es Toch, the City of the Shing.
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This is one of Le Guin's lesser works, in my opinion. Set in a post-apocalyptic world and universe, where it's not the humans who are in charge, the premise is good. But the insights aren't very telling, and I'm not returning to this one.
LibraryThing member ScoLgo
LeGuin is quite a writer. She takes the reader on a journey of discovery that plumbs the depths of the human condition while exploring the meaning of 'truth'. When someone tells you they are a liar, are they lying or telling you true? This is at the crux of the dilemma in which Falk, our protagonist, finds himself. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance and every action or reaction seems to lead toward disaster. The storylines of the preceding two Hainish Cycle books also dovetail nicely into this one.… (more)
LibraryThing member renbedell
While each books in the series has a similar tone, I feel this one is really well written and very intriguing. Exploring an unknown world while also exploring the relationship of power and illusion. The main protagonist is great and delves into personality being a creation of our experiences. While this is a series, so far all the books could be enjoyed as a stand alone book.… (more)


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0441107060 / 9780441107063
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