Le Guin's latest (Unlocking the Air, 1996, etc.) belongs to her Hainish cycle—Hain being the planet that originally seeded Earth, and many other worlds, with the human species; now the Hainish are revisiting lost worlds and drawing them into the benevolent Ekumene. Sutty, the envoy to planet Aka, grew up on an Earth ruled by a repressive religious dictatorship. Aka is run by a capitalist dictatorship, the Corporation. Sutty lives in Dovza City, full of good corporate citizens, but is not allowed to visit anywhere else. In its zeal to become a star-traveling civilization, the Corporation burns books and destroys vestiges of the planet's past—before unauthorized fanatics from Earth wrenched Aka's development onto its present path. Finally, Sutty receives permission to visit a remote mountain region, though she's dogged by a Monitor, a true believer and Corporation informer. From the mountain folk, who passively resist the Corporation, Sutty learns about the extraordinarily diverse, vital, integrated culture that once existed on Aka. Fascinated, she joins a spiritual pilgrimage to the sacred mountain, Silong, the secret repository of saved books and historical treasures. But can Sutty use her knowledge of the old and new Akan cultures to broker a deal to save Aka's treasures and moderate the worst excesses of its corporate state?
The usual mesmerizing Le Guin narrative and intensity of concept, but too one-sided to provoke resonance or plumb the depths.