An incredibly beautiful denunciation of the Vietnam war, through Hainish analogy. Subtly but unambiguously captures raw human brutality.
Ursula excels in literary and emotional science fiction. I've previously written that this sometimes gets in the way of the plot and impact of a story, but none of that is true for this book. The word for world is forest reads like a prolonged punch in the gut. It hurts to read through the no-frills build-up of human cruelty, not trying to mask any of the evils people are capable of.
The conclusion is predictable but still heart-wrenching. The violence and death spread by the humans from Earth on this forest planet corrupt all life irreversibly. From time to time, the story hints at fascinatingly deep societal aspects of the native human population, never exploring it fully or technically. I am made to feel wonder and astonishment and curiosity with respect to these people. But Ursula only lets this serve the feeling of oppressiveness of imperialistic colonialism.
From A Working Library:
The book is an indictment, as sharp against the throat as any knife can be.
From the introduction written by Ken Macleod:
[..] the novel's revolutionary defeatism doesn't fall into the trap of romanticising the revolt of the oppressed. The Athsheans are changed by the very act of fighting, new and strange to them; the world they win back is not the same as the world that was taken from them; and their fight is not fair, or discriminating, or by the rules. It is dirty and brutal and shocking.