Tag Archives: Morality Tales

A Review of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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.  


The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin book cover. Image on cover shows three humanoid figures walking away from the viewer into the sunrise on a flat, grassy plain. 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

Blurb:

Some inhabitants of a peaceful kingdom cannot tolerate the act of cruelty that underlies its happiness.

Review:

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.

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. 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!

Bad Decisions: A Review of The Diary of Mr. Poynter

The Diary of Mr. Poynter - A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories) by M.R. James. Image on cover is of a furry monster. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: The Diary of Mr. Poynter – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: M.R. James

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1919 and 2016.

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 38 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 2 stars

Blurb:

While engrossed in an ancient account of the sinister death of a student obsessed with his own hair, a man leans down to absently pet his dog — oblivious of the true nature of the creature crouching beside him. Seth’s newly illustrated version of M.R. James’ classic Christmas ghost story is a spooky holiday delight.

Review:

It turns out there is such a thing as being too engrossed in a book.

Out of all of the things in the world one could get excited about, a fabric sample is honestly pretty far down on my list. The fact that something as ordinary as this could change the lives of the people who found it in ways they never would have imagined made for a creative read.

The pacing of this story was slow and included many rambling details and asides that didn’t seem that relevant to pushing the plot forward. As interested as I was in the premise, I struggled to remain interested in the storyline because of these issues.

I’m not normally a fan of tales that include morality lessons, but this one was nice and subtle which is something I appreciate in that genre. The reader is mostly left to their own devices when it comes to deciding what the mistakes of the characters might have been and how they could have made better choices.

If you don’t mind a little sermonizing in your ghost stories, this is an interesting read.