August 30, 1982 12:00 PM

by Ursula K. Le Guin

In one of these short stories, The New Atlantis, a character reads a novel “about small-town sex life in the last century, the dear old 1970s when there weren’t any problems and life was so simple and nostalgic.” It’s typical of Le Guin that in one sentence she can place her story in the future, make a sly comment on 1970 mores, and give it a touch of irony all at the same time. Author of The Left Hand of Darkness, she is among the stars of sci-fi, and in Atlantis she writes a love yarn about a scientist who does forbidden experiments and a woman who plays the viola. They live in a police state in Oregon, much worse than Orwell’s 1984. Another story, Schrodinger’s Cat, poses this question: What will happen when a cat and a gun are put into a box together? A talking dog who sets up the experiment believes that either the gun will shoot the cat or the gun will not shoot the cat. Something entirely different, and perfect, happens instead. These stories often have the atmosphere of fairy tale or folk legend. Le Guin has a sure hand and enough confidence to be funny—a rare quality in sci-fi writing. (Harper & Row, $14.95)

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