I'm quite a big fan of Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish novels. It's not that easy to explain this Hainish universe but basically it's sort of an organisation of planets connected by a body of people known as the Ekumen. Wikipedia does a good job of explaining it here. Not that it matters that much to be honest and I'm nothing if not a bit confused by it, but that doesn't stop me loving these loosely connected books. Possibly the most famous is The Left Hand of Darkness which I read as my first Hainish novel several years ago. After reading that I decided to start at the beginning and read through all seven or eight of the novels Le Guin has written in this universe. Three books begin the series, Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile and this third book that I've just read - City of Illusions.
The story itself is quite straightforward. Earth has become a barbarous place. An enemy called The Shing rule it from the city of Es Toch, somewhere in the Rocky mountains, and the human population is either scattered and tribal, or live on small farms in the great forests of eastern North America. To one of these, one day, comes a wild man, so unlike any human with his huge yellow eyes that the community are undecided about whether they should kill him. They keep him instead and set about restoring his empty mind. The result is 'Falk' and he lives among these people, learning more and more every day about their existance but never knowing who he truly is. Eventually, it's decided that he must travel to the distant Shing city of Es Toch to find out who he is. The first half of the book charts his amazing journey. The second half of the book details what happens when he gets to the city and I won't go into that as there are several twists and turns that would spoil it for others who might pick up this book.
As I said before this is the third book in the Hainish series, and I have loved every one of them. All three are old fashioned, traditional science fiction and take me back many years to the time when that was about all I read. There are themes running through all of these books. Colonisation, how alien cultures deal with each other, how easily misunderstandings happen, ecological matters and so on. Authors that remind me a bit of her are Sherri Tepper (Grass), Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow) and Anne McCaffrey's Freedom's Landing series. (I didn't realise I liked this sci fi theme as much as it seems I do...) The next book is The Dispossessed which is apparently a bit of a sci fi classic; I don't have it so have just sent for a copy. I would also highly recommend one of Le Guin's more recent anthologies, The Birthday of the World. I bang on about this short story collection quite a lot but it has quite a few Hainish stories in it, about sexuality (though not in any way explicit), and is quite honestly one of the best anthologies I've ever read. Le Guin apparently calls her Hainish universe, 'My pseudo-coherent universe with holes in the elbows'. Well quite. But I call it simply 'brilliant'.
My first read for Carl's Sci Fi experience.