In her lush yet efficient prose, Ursula Le Guin needs less than two hundred pages to create a planet on which Earth refugees have settled, only to make the same mistakes as their forebears. The difference is that some have preserved humanitarian values and are putting them into practice.
Victoria is a world of slaves and masters. But the slaves have learned from the legacies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They recognize the futility of conflict and do their best to keep the peace. When pushed to extremes, they must choose between armed rebellion and passive resistance.
The principal characters include Lev, a young slave leader, and Luz, daughter of one of the ruling council members. An understanding between them serves to provoke a crisis. Other characters, though less developed, suggest intractability between the two classes.
Le Guin devotes as much of her narration to world-building as she does to plot. Like Earth, Victoria is an environment both nurturing and harsh. Her detailed descriptions serve to reinforce her theme that to survive, all the migrants must live in harmony.
As I read, I found myself expecting some sort of revolution to occur. It does, but not in the way one would expect. That’s what makes The Eye of the Heron unique, and why the late Ursula Le Guin endures as one of literature’s finest novelists.