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The Island of the Immortals by Ursula K. Le Guin

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"The Island of the Immortals" is a 1998 science fiction short story by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is about a traveler to another plane who learns a terrible secret about an island full of long-lived people.

I admire Ursula Le Guin – she is a great author. However, I don’t really care for some of her stories. I’ve found several of her stories to be kind of bland. But the ones I like I really like – such as the wonderful A Wizard of Earthsea series – and now this story too! This was an excellent piece that had me thinking about it for days after reading it. Give it a try – I think you might like it too!

Non-Spoiler Summary

Diamond by Striving to a goal, CC 2.0 License

The narrator of this story is an un-named person, who I’m going to assume is a woman. It seems she has decided to do a bit of traveling lately, and after meeting with a local travel agent she is intrigued by the eponymous “Island of the Immortals!” The travel agent advises her not to go there… so do several other people. But she is undeterred and does a bit of research on the island while waiting for her boat. It seems that there are some nasty flies there, and some un-exciteable natives… and diamonds on the ground – just for the taking! So why isn’t this idealic sounding island more popular? Well, after traveling there she figures out why. See, she should have just listened to the travel agent in the first place!

My Two Cents

  • Story: 5 stars – The “big reveal” at the end of this story was very interesting, but I also enjoyed the feel of it too. It reminded me of the stories about early explorers to Africa and South America – which I very much enjoyed.
  • Writing: 5 stars – Absolutely excellent! The author’s writing style, choice of words and voice for the character were just superb! A very rich story indeed.
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars – So, this is where the story falls just short of perfect. It was a super intriguing read, I’ll give it that, but there were just too many depressing ideas for it to be considered “loads of fun.”

Where To Find The Island of the Immortals

  • This story first appeared in the Fall 1998 edition of Amazing Stories.
  • You can read "The Island of the Immortals" online for free at Lightspeed Magazine’s web site.
  • It is also included in the author’s themed collection Changing Planes.

Craving More SF Stories Like This One?

If you enjoyed "The Island of the Immortals" then you might also like "Border Guards" by Greg Egan – about a group of long-lived humans who discover a truly ancient woman.