Voices is perhaps a more outwardly compelling book than the first, Gifts, partly because it features some of the same characters, and partly because it has more action. Memer is still pretty introspective, but the scale has changed: from a small mountain community, we’re now in a big city, and a city which is under the control of an occupying force.
Obviously the issues here are ones pretty close to my heart: reading and literacy, but also the way imperialism tries to break down local culture, failing to understand it or branding it primitive, even heretical, or just ignorant. With less heresy and supernatural stuff, and more “you stupid ignorant people”, that’s the relationship between Wales and England. (No, don’t chime in to tell me it’s not. I refer you to the Treachery of the Blue Books and the Welsh Not for just two examples.) Obviously the situations aren’t directly analogous, but it still resonated — particularly Memer’s initial inability to read, considering I still can’t read Welsh. I’m not sure if a single non-border English school offers Welsh classes on the curriculum, but mine definitely did not.
Since this is Ursula Le Guin we’re talking about, it’s beautifully and meditatively written. If you’re looking for big epic battles in which two armies clash, you’re in entirely the wrong place, but if you want a blueprint for how people can interact, even when their cultures clash, then Le Guin’s got your back.