Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:
– read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier
– talk about it online sometime in January
– have fun
If any of my readers are interested in participating\ use the hashtag #VintageSciFiMonth or tag @VintageSciFi_ or @redhead5318 on Twitter if you’d like your posts to be included in the official retweets and roundups.
Title: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Author: Ursula K. LeGuin
Publisher: Harper Perennial. It was originally published in the anthology New Dimensions, Volume 3.
Publication Date: 1973.
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 22 pages
Source: I borrowed it from the library.
Rating: 5 Stars
Some inhabitants of a peaceful kingdom cannot tolerate the act of cruelty that underlies its happiness.
Content warning: Child abuse.
What does it meant to live in the perfect society?
This is one of those stories that works best if you don’t know the twist that’s coming, so I’ll have to be careful about how I word this review.
One of the most interesting things about this tale is how cheerfully it started out. Omelas was a quiet, safe community where everyone’s needs were met. It wasn’t the most technologically advanced setting for a science fiction story, but that isn’t required for this genre. What mattered was showing the reader the many advantages of living there as those arguments would become important quite soon.
Like a lot of speculative fiction, there is a twist, of course. No, I’m not going to say what it was, only that it shocked my teenage brain the first time I read it as an assignment for a high school literature course. The tone of the storyline changed so abruptly that I went back and reread the first few sections to see if there was something I’d missed. It takes a talented writer to suddenly pull the readers into an entirely new direction like that in a way that feels perfectly natural (if unexpected) in retrospect, and I admired Le Guin’s ability to do just that.
The philosophical questions that popped up at the end were excellent, too. Memorable science fiction should challenge our assumptions about the world and make us question if our first response to a question is necessarily the best one. Yes, I know I’m being quite vague here, but this really is something that new readers should wrestle with themselves without any outside influence. There is no wrong or right answer here, but your reasons for picking the position you do will genuinely matter as the final scene ends and readers are left wondering what happened next and how they’d react in the same situation.
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is a classic. Go read it!
8 Responses to A Review of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Wonderful review. I love a story with an unusual twist.
Thank you! Yeah, those kinds of twists are great.
The first time I read it, I had kind of the same reaction as you did — like, my brain just kind of lurched to one side when we got there.
Exactly! It’s cool we had the same reaction to it.
It’s a great story.
I fully agree, this is one story that needs to be read without any spoilers. I still don’t know what I’d do in that situation, though. Would I leave? Stay? I have no idea. This is such a well written story.
Ooh, that’s a good question. I have no idea what I’d do either.