The Word for World Is Forest concerns the struggle between colonists from Terra (Earth), who are searching for resources for their now-desert planet, and the natives of the planet Athshe, who are striving to preserve the forest ecology upon which their culture depends. The most extreme representative of the Terran point of view is Captain Don Davidson, who considers himself a “world-tamer.” He sees his task as destroying Athshe’s “primeval murk and savagery and ignorance.” Davidson is opposed by Raj Lyubov, an anthropologist who has been studying the Athshean culture and has become friends with an Athshean named Selver. Davidson and his colonists have enslaved the Athsheans and consider them to be subhuman. Under Selver’s leadership, the Athshean slaves rebel against their captors.
The Athsheans have developed the ability to dream at will. They use their dreams to order their daily experience and to anticipate the future. Selver is a dreamer who becomes a god or “translator,” one who is able to express the perceptions of his subconscious. Selver’s dreams are responsible for the introduction of murder to the previously nonviolent Athshean culture. The Athsheans come to believe that they must defend themselves and their planet against the Terrans.
The Terran/Athshean confrontation is altered by the arrival of a communication device on the planet as a result of the formation of the League of Worlds. The Terrans are...
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