When comparing Voices
to Gifts, the first book of the series, in terms of the themes described, Voices
is certainly the better book. This is a book about the loss of a cultured civilization through colonization. The colonizers consider the ability to read and write a demonic ability… books as evil entities that must be destroyed at all costs, with no lives spared. Seventeen years after the war, we’re faced with a lost civilization, or a Dark Age, with a new generation of “half-castes” who no longer have the ability to learn.
As she does in her Earthsea series, I like how Le Guin plays with our perceptions of ethnicity and religion. The lost civilization of Ansul is not what we’d consider an Aryan society; the people are described as being dark, and worship multiple deities in a polytheistic religion. The Alds, the colonizers, are monotheistic, and have pale skin with frizzy blonde hair. Both cultures are antagonistic, and the people of Ansul haven’t entirely given up hope to return their city to its former splendor. But the question arises if a rebellion can be achieved peacefully or whether the course of action must be a violent one?
The protagonists from Gifts
, Orrec and Gry are prominent figures in this installment, which takes place some twenty years after the events described in the first book. And while I do think Voices
is the better book of the two, I don’t like our narrator as much as I did Orrec in book one. I personally preferred Orrec’s story because it was one of introspection and personal conflicts. Memer’s on the other hand, describes external conflicts and is thus broader in scope. Memer, the main protagonist of this book, has an authentic teenage voice, with strong emotions and prejudices of what has happened to her people and her disgust and hate directed towards all the Alds. Her sentiments are all or nothing. I didn’t quite like that outlook, or her treatment towards Simme, an Ald and her junior in years. Throughout the book, she has difficulties learning how to respect other cultural beliefs and is partially unsatisfied by the aftermath of the rebellion… that the path taken by her elders isn’t the same path she’d have chosen. However, Memer our narrator is an adult, recounting the events as she remembers them, and through that more mature outlook, there is the sense of regret towards that initial impulsive nature of hers.
Despite those few faults this is an excellent book and one that could certainly be read as a standalone novel.