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Publisher's Summary

The dazzling BBC Radio adaptations of Ursula K. Le Guin's famous fantasy saga and her groundbreaking science fiction masterpiece - plus bonus material.

Ursula K. Le Guin was one of the most revered and influential writers of the 20th century. Her Earthsea books have sold millions of copies and been translated into numerous languages, while her trailblazing novel The Left Hand of Darkness was a landmark in feminist science fiction and ranks among the greatest SF novels of all time. This BBC collection brings together the magical radio retellings of both these seminal classics.

Set on an immense archipelago where magic is a part of life, Earthsea tells the stories of Ged, a young, reckless wizard, and Tenar, taken from her home as a child to become Arha, guardian priestess of the ominous Tombs of Atuan. Meeting for the first time deep within the tombs, their destinies become intertwined, and they unite to bring peace to their troubled world. Years later, their paths have diverged - but when Ged returns to Tenar's island on a dragon's back, they are caught up in an epic battle for the future of Earthsea itself. Starring James McArdle, Shaun Dooley and Robert Glenister as Ged, and Aysha Kala, Vineeta Rishi and Nina Wadia as Tenar with Toby Jones and Noma Dumezweni.

The Left Hand of Darkness takes place on an alien world in the grip of an Ice Age. Genly Ai has been sent from Earth on a mission to persuade Gethen to join a planetary union, the Ekumen. But his task is fraught with difficulty. For this is a world whose people have no fixed gender, and Genly's encounters with the natives are marked by mutual incomprehension and mistrust. In coming to terms with their otherness and their sameness Genly must let go of his fixed ideas about identity and embark on a dangerous journey across the snow plains with his only ally, First Minister Estraven. The stakes are high to save a world from war. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith stars as Genly, with Lesley Sharp as Estraven.

Also included Ursula Le Guin at 85, in which novelist Naomi Alderman interviews Le Guin, with contributions from Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell and Karen Joy Fowler.

Production credits:

Written by Ursula K.Le Guin. Adapted by Judith Adams.

Earthsea

Ged - James McArdle/Shaun Dooley/Robert Glenister, Tenar - Aysha Kala/Vineeta Rishi/Nina Wadia, Young Ged - Kasper Hilton-Hille, Young Tenar - Nishi Malde, Ogion - Paul Hilton/Michael Bertenshaw, Manan - Zubin Varla, Cob - Toby Jones, Nilgu - Noma Dumezweni

Other cast: Souad Faress, David Hounslow, Adam Thomas-Wright, Mark Edel-Hunt, Jessica Turner, Lucy Hutchinson, Stephen Critchlow, Sam Dale, Ayesha Antoine, Richard Linnell, Jack Kane, David Acton, Chris Pavlo, Will Featherstone, Jude Akudwudike, Laura Elphinstone, Rosie Boore, Elizabeth Counsell, John Lightbody, Ryan Early, Stephen Hogan, Sean Murray, Emma Handy, Lauren Cornelius, Kerry Gooderson, Ryan Whittle, Steven Robertson, Joseph Ayre, Narinder Samra, Tom Vanson, Sabrina Sandhu.

Directed by Sasha Yevtushenko. Original music by Jon Nicholls. Sound design by Caleb Knightley.

First broadcast BBC Radio 4 Extra, 27th April-5th May 2015 (Series 1), 15th-22nd October 2018 (Series 2).

The Left Hand of Darkness

Genly Ai - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Estraven - Lesley Sharp, Argaven - Toby Jones

Other cast: Louise Brealey, Noma Dumezweni, Ruth Gemmell, Adjoa Andoh, Stephen Critchlow, David Acton, David Hounslow, Rhiannon Neads, Sam Dale, Ayesha Antoine.

Directed by Allegra McIlroy. First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 12-19 April 2015 

Ursula Le Guin at 85

Presented by Naomi Alderman. With Ursula K. Le Guin, David Mitchell, Neil Gaiman and Karen Joy Fowler. Reader: Ayesha Antoine.

Produced by Allegra McIlroy. First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 9th April 2015.

©2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P)2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

What listeners say about The Complete Earthsea Series & The Left Hand of Darkness

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Too much fluff and interruptions.

Great voice acting, music and production value.

Since it was for radio way too many into and outro credits that repeated and broke up the flow.

The adaptation I think shortened the main story too much which made the plot hard to follow.

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misleading

it was good, and enjoyable. but I didn't buy it knowing that it was a dramatization of the stories. a lot of details were left out. still good, but not what I was wanting.

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Too abridged

I felt the voice actors did a great job. Really lovely getting to revisit earth sea with a cast that felt really well produced. The story was a bit too abridged, it almost felt like I was getting the spark notes dramatically read to me so that I would get the gist without much of the heart. Wish each text had been twice as long.

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Why didnt it say it was a dramatization

Inaccurate description....still entertaining if i had read these stories before...but thought it was the compete book series

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A wonderful return to a beloved world

If you know Le Guin, then you know these books: The high-fantasy brilliance of Earthsea and the trailbreaking, feminist science fiction of Left Hand are classics that need no introduction. I read both of them many years ago, and I was contemplating a reread of the Earthsea saga when I came across this BBC Radio adaptation. What a wonderful return to a world that I love! In presenting a condensed, compressed version of the books, these radio dramatizations hit all the right notes, with fabulous sound effects. Dragons speak in fiery hisses; they drop from the sky to land on rocky cliffs with a metallic sound of armored wings folding against steel-scaled bodies. You truly must hear it to believe what the sound-effects wizards have created in these adaptations: It’s so immersive, you are there amid dragons. The original music is perfect; the casting is perfect. Playing Ged at different ages are James McArdle, Shaun Dooley, and Robert Glenister, each actor breathing new life into a complex character. The Earthsea episodes fill the first six hours of this set, followed by about two hours of The Left Hand of Darkness. While the Earthsea adaptations satisfied my need to revisit those books, the very abbreviated Left Hand dramatization had the opposite effect: While I enjoyed it, it left me feeling that I must have forgotten a great deal of that book. My memories of it don’t quite align with the radio adaptation. I will be getting my old copy of Left Hand down from the shelf and rereading it. To conclude: These BBC Radio dramatizations are special pleasures and delights for those who know the source materials. If you haven’t read The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea books, however, you may find these adaptations confusing, because they are significantly condensed. The term “Complete” in the title of this set is misleading. It refers to the “complete” BBC Radio broadcasts, NOT to the books themselves. Those who approach this collection with that understanding will find themselves wonderfully entertained by a cast of performers who know their craft. Everyone here is a consummate professional.

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  • FEA12
  • 01-11-22

Adaptation is a travesty...

The way in which these novels have been adapted drains all meaning out of the narrative. I am a great fan of the Earth sea books, but they need to be presented as they were written, not have two stories chopped up and merged. Shockingly bad adaptation of excellent material

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  • Mr M Taylor
  • 01-18-22

A big disappointment

I never read the original books but they are a favourite of my daughter and they are an acknowledged classic of the fantasy genre. I was very disappointed with this adaptation, I didn't warm to the characters and the story didn't engage me it was all a bit flat. I guess that trying to fit it into the the half hour radio adaptation format meant too much was missed out. I couldn't even listen to the left hand of darkness it was so poor.

3 people found this helpful