The Dispossessed (Hainish Series)

The Dispossessed (Hainish Series)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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“One of the greats….Not just a science fiction writer; a literary icon.” – Stephen King

From the brilliant and award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin comes a classic tale of two planets torn apart by conflict and mistrust — and the man who risks everything to reunite them.

A bleak moon settled by utopian anarchists, Anarres has long been isolated from other worlds, including its mother planet, Urras—a civilization of warring nations, great poverty, and immense wealth. Now Shevek, a brilliant physicist, is determined to reunite the two planets, which have been divided by centuries of distrust. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have kept them apart.

To visit Urras—to learn, to teach, to share—will require great sacrifice and risks, which Shevek willingly accepts. But the ambitious scientist's gift is soon seen as a threat, and in the profound conflict that ensues, he must reexamine his beliefs even as he ignites the fires of change.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061054884
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/20/1994
Series: Hainish Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 21,150
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 820L (what's this?)

About the Author

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2014, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry, and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, and PEN/Malamud. Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories.


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

October 21, 1929

Place of Birth:

Berkeley, California


B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.

Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had nogardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free.

Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.

A number of people were coming along the road towards the landing field, or standing around where the road cut through the wall.

People often came out from the nearby city of Abbenay in hopes of seeing a spaceship, or simply to see the wall, After all, it was the only boundary wall ontheir world. Nowhere else could they see a sign that said No Trespassing. Adolescents, particularly, were drawn to it. They came up to the wall; they sat an it. There might be a gang to watch, offloading crates from track trucks at the warehouses. There might even be a freighter on the pad. Freighters came down only eight times a year, unannounced except to syndics actually working at the Port, so when the spectators were lucky enough to see one they were excited, at first. But there they sat, and there it sat, a squat black tower in a mess of movable cranes, away off across the field. And then a woman came over from one of the warehouse crews and said, "We're shutting down for today, brothers." She was wearing the Defense armband, a sight almost as rare as a spaceship. That was a bit of a thrill. But though her tone was mild, it was final. She was the foreman of this gang, and if provoked would be backed up by her syndics. And anyhow there wasn't anything to see. The aliens, the off-worlders, stayed hiding in their ship. No show.

It was a dull show for the Defense crew, too. Sometimes the foreman wished that somebody would just try to cross the wall, an alien, crewman jumping ship, or a kid from Abbenay trying to sneak in for a. closer look at the freighter. But it never happened. Nothing ever happened. When something did happen she wasn't ready for it.

The captain of the freighter Mindful said to her, "Isthat mob after my ship?"

The foreman looked and saw that, in fact there was a real crowd around the gate, a hundred or more people. They were standing around, just standing, the way people had stood at produce-train stations during the Famine. It gave the foreman a scare.

"No. They, ah, protest," she said in her slow and limited Iotic. "Protest the ah: you know. Passenger?"

"You mean they're after this bastard we're supposed to take? Are they going to try to stop him, or us?"

The word "bastard," untranslatable in the foreman's language, meant nothing to her except some kind of foreign term for her people, but she had never liked the sound of it, or the captain's tone, or the captain. "Can you look after you?" she asked briefly.

"Hell, yes. You just get the rest of this cargo unIoaded, quick. And get this passenger bastard on board. No mob of Oddies is about to give us any trouble." He patted the thing he wore on his belt, a metal object like a deformed penis, and looked patronizingly at the unarmed woman.

She gave the phallic object, which she knew was a weapon, a cold glance. "Ship will be loaded by fourteen hours," she said. "Keep crew on board safe. Lift off at fourteen hours forty. If you need help, leave message on tape at Ground Control." She strode off, before the captain could one-up her. Anger made her more forceful with her crew and the crowd. "Clear the road there!" she ordered as she neared the wall. "Trucks are coming through, somebody's going to get hurt. Clear aside!"

The men and women in the crowd argued with her and with one another. They kept crossing the road, and some came inside the wall. Yet they did more or less clear the way. If the foreman had no experience in bossing a mob, they had no experience in being one. Members of a community, not elements of a collectivity, they were not moved by mass feeling, there were as many emotions there as there were people. And they did not expect commands to be arbitrary, so they had no practice in disobeying them. Their inexperience saved the passenger's life.

Some of them had come there to kill a traitor. Others had come to prevent him from leaving, or to yell insults at him, or just to look at him; and all these others obstructed the sheer brief path of the assassins.

The Dispossessed. Copyright © by Ursula K. Leguin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

1. Presidential Leadership: An Introduction. 2. The Nomination Process. 3. The Presidential Election. 4. The President and the Public. 5. The President and the Media. 6. Presidents and their Advisors. 7. Presidential Decision Making. 8. The President and the Executive Branch. 9. The President and Congress. 10. The President and the Judiciary. 11. Domestic Policy Making. 12. Budgetary and Economic Policy Making. 13. Foreign and Defense Policy Making. Appendix A: Methods for Studying the Presidency. Appendix B: Non-electoral Succession, Removal and Tenure. Appendix C: Provisions of the Constitution of the United States that Relate to the Presidency. Appendix D: 2012 Electoral and Popular Vote Summary.

Reading Group Guide


Shevek, citizen and acclaimed physicist of the world Anarres, believes that he must free his people from the walls that they have built around their anarchist state, blocking out all other worlds. A freethinker and believer in the power of revolution and the individual's right to self-rule, Shevek must risk all to discover the truth about the land that his people escaped from, Urras.

But all is not as he believes on the glittering world of Urras. Coddled within the ivory towers of its university, Shevek is prohibited from seeing the real world of Urras, the world of the poor and indigent from which his people came. Although shunned by his Odonian society for his cutting-edge theories, the Urrasti hold him captive for his knowledge of the General Temporal Theory, a theory that could bring the Urrasti all the power and fortune they desire.

Aware that he has only traded one set of walls for another, Shevek must make an even more dangerous journey if he is truly to succeed in his ultimate mission of fostering understanding and true brotherhood among the races. Enlisting the aid of sympathetic Urrasti and aliens from Terra and Hain, Shevek succeeds in evading the propertarian Urrasti and shares his knowledge with the universe. For it is only when there is a true understanding, that he can finally return home to a new world.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Throughout the novel, the reader is introduced to numerous characters. Who was your favorite and why? Did you have a favorite race of people? Who did you identify with the most?

  2. Shevek believes that he made a mistake in putting his trust,his life, in the hands of the Urrasti. Do you agree? What else could he have done? Did he find his utopia in the end?

  3. There are many morals and words of wisdom for today's society throughout the novel. What are they? Should they be viewed as warnings? Which one was most important to you?

  4. Do you believe that the Odonian society is somehow more moral than the Urrasti? How are the power structures disguised in the Odonian societal model? What is the importance of owning nothing?

  5. Shevek states, "Revolution is our obligation; our hope of evolution." If a society is founded upon revolution, as Shevek believes, is it the people's responsibility to maintain the mindset that made the initial revolt possible?

  6. Every struggle has its "Odo." Who is the Odo for the following struggles: Civil Rights, Women's Liberation, South African Apartheid, to name a few. Can you think of others? Who are they?

  7. What do you think is a more effective tool of governing, popular opinion or laws? Is it our fear of getting caught or of being shunned by our neighbors and society that keep us honest?

  8. How does Shevek grow throughout the course of the novel? How effective is the use of flashbacks in every other chapter? Can they really be considered flashbacks once you understand the theories of time with which Shevek is struggling?

  9. What role does the family structure play within Odonian society? How are Shevek and Tekver revolutionaries in this aspect?

  10. Were you surprised when Shevek decides to go to the Hainish and not the Thuvians, being the enemies of the Urrasti? How do you think each culture will use his theory?

About the Author

A multiple award-winning author, editor, and anthologist, Ursula K. LeGuin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California -- the daughter of writer Theodora Kroeber and anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber. She went to Radcliffe College, did graduate work at Columbia University and attained a 1953 Fulbright Fellowship. Le Guin married historian Charles A. Le Guin and has three children and three grandchildren. She has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958.

Throughout her illustrious literary career -- 19 novels, short stories in nine collections, two volumes of translation, 13 books for children, three collections of essays, and numerous honorary degrees, teaching posts, and awards -- Le Guin has held to the highest standards in her writing, taking risks that would bring great rewards and praise from her contemporaries.

Having received countless awards -- a National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Award to name a few -- Le Guin has also had three of her books become finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Le Guin's first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, propelled her instantly to the forefront of her field. Since then, she has used the context of her work to delve into such issues as gender roles, morality, and the individual's ordinary grief. Working in so many forms -- from poetry and prose to screenplays and voice text for recordings -- Le Guin has transformed the genre in which she works countless times over. An intensely private figure like many of her characters, Le continues to create her fantastical worlds for all ages.

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The Dispossessed (Hainish Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was lucky to start reading Ursula K. L'Guin with this book. Then I read all the others, but this one has always remained special. I read probably 30 SF books and I think this one was the easiest to read, most understandable, most humanist and the one that thaught and reminded me of what it means to be a scientist and to be socially responsible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book shows us more about our world, and the walls we build up that limit and narrow our lives, than any philosophy I have read, without the exception of F. Nietzche. Our assumptions about human nature are deeply questioned, and an incredibly humanitarian option is presented to us (one which has been swallowed by the defeat of 'communism'). To her credit, Le Guin does not present either side in this 'debate' in a narrow way, and questions all sides deeply. She gives a view of a utopia that is the most plausible and likely of any I have encountered (largely due to its imperfection). It is a utopia where what we gain is much more important than what we lose, yet the gains are imperiled as the tendency to institutionalize manifests itself within the society. The Marxist idea of a need for constant revolution is made real, so that, after reading this book, we will perhaps be able to make real in our world (and in ourselves) the state of constant revolt, which is the only answer to the problems of entropy, ennui and bureaucracy which plague our modern civilization. Lets not wind up the way we do in The Dispossessed.
JaneM2 More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. This sci-fi world mirrors our own in most unpleasant ways. I read the whole book in one go.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are book you have to rea in life. This is one of them
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Classic le Guin. Thoughtful and engaging.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No doubt about it, five stars. A whole new concept and perhaps the best science fiction I ever read.
hermit_9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A comparison/contrast between two societies—one an almost pure socialist/anarchist society, the other a capitalist state. I read it in the 1970s, and remember it as a great read. It’s on my re-read list (If I can find my copy).
justchris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The next on my list is The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin. I have been quite impressed with this author over the years. I have not enjoyed all of her stories that I've tried, but every one is an in-depth exploration of some very important social concept. In this case, it is a society of anarchists in a moon colony.The Dispossessed does not progress in a linear narrative fashion. It begins with a gathering of protesters at the spaceport who hope to stop the solitary passenger Shevek from traveling to the main planet. Shevek is a theoretical physicist, and the story alternates between vignettes from his infancy up to the spaceport confrontation and continuing the story from that point forward.This society of anarchists is an interesting thought experiment. It is all about suppressing egotism and selfish desires. The language was artificially constructed to remove things like possessive pronouns. Names are assigned by the central computer and serve as unique identifiers (no need for SSN). Material possessions are strongly frowned upon. All unattached individuals sleep in dormitories, and everyone eats in communal cafeterias. There are no marriages and divorces or nuclear families. 'Egoizing' and 'propertarians' are dirty words.As my querido points out, the success of this venture depends on extreme isolation and privation. Exiled to the moon, they are completely cut off from other cultures and languages and customs. And the moon is barely terraformed; the human population is barely hanging on, and the agricultural ecology is minutely managed. One bad year means serious famine potential. And no one can just hare off and become a hermit in the wilderness if he or she doesn't like the way things are going. It is the epitome of mutual interdependence for the sake of survival.The moon colony has no government as such, no laws, no crimes, no elected officials, no dictators, no family patriarchs, no police force, no military, no elite, and no underclass. Also no money. Every individual owes community service but is free to seek his or her own best contribution/occupation/avocation. It is supposed to be a sort of perpetual revolution. But every system exists to perpetuate itself, given enough time, and develops some form of bureaucracy. Conformity through peer pressure is perhaps more insidious than via regulations.And so when Shevek hits an intellectual wall in his own society (which in general does not consider his scholarship as making any sort of contribution and frowns upon the solitude necessary for his work), he decides to seek out his colleagues on the planet. This plan is not only for his own growth, but to shake up his own society that is forgetting its founding premises.To me, the main planet is a strong critique of the inequalities of our modern society. And the inability of Shevek and the people from the planet to understand each other because their basic assumptions are so radically different is at times amusing. The perspective of humans, who appear at the end of the story, provides an additional contrast. Note only two humans are mentioned: an Asian woman and a black man.
wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A dual planet, two separate, conflicting ,well-drawn cultures with one developed from the other. Interesting book about culture clash, change and human nature mixed with some hardish sf most of which could have been skipped without losing the point of the book.
andreablythe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shevek grew up in a society of anarchists, a near utopian society on the moon of Urras in which everyone is equal, there is no monetary system, and all goods are shared equally and fairly. However, it is also a society that has begun to reject new principles and ideas, making life difficult for Shevek, who wishes to explore the new boundaries of physics. In order to follow the path of physics, Shevek has to turn away from his home to Urras, the planet the anarchist society abandoned hundreds of years before so that they could have their freedom. Urras is a world upon divided by cultures and countries, many at war with each other. Capitalism is king there, where there are drastic differences between the classes and just about anything is for sale. One might think the focus of this novel is politics, from sexual politics to economic politics, -- and that would be true. Politics, philosophy, and and physics all play large roles here and are the subject of much discussion between the characters, each who have very strong points of view. Nothing is simple, however, and Sevek learns that his anarchist society is not as perfect as he believed, nor is the capitalistic society of Urras nearly as wicked as he imagined. There is good and evil in everything. But even more story, this is a novel about a man who is lost, who is looking for a place to belong. His deep, deep loneliness and feelings of being disconnected from either world are very true and moving. Without this connection to Shevek, the story would be too tangled in philosophy and politics. Shevek's journey -- physical, intellectual, and emotion -- is really what makes this story come alive.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On another world, that is not so very much unlike our own, there was a rebellion of anarchists. Those who denied the idea of law, of property, and of possession, who only saw brotherhood, acceptance and the joy of doing work for its own sake, not in order to earn money to live. That world was able to rid the anarchists by giving them the moon on which to live and grow their quasi-communist society. 160 years later, a theoretical scientist living on this moon comes up with an idea that could change the lives of everyone on both worlds, in addition to the other societies of aliens heretofore discovered, that of Earth and Hain. Nominally, that¿s what this book is about. In practice, it is much more of a commentary and comparison with the anarchist society and our own. It¿s a thought experiment. How would that society function? What does a marriage look like? Would the human characteristics of greed and power-seeking still seep back in?In chapters that alternate between Shevek the scientist¿s early life leading up to his trip back to the mother world of Urras and his experiences on Urras, LeGuin compares and contrasts practices and customs through the eyes of one who has only ever lived in sharing and harmony with his fellow man. The result is fascinating, if a little devoid of plot. This is okay with me because I prefer this kind of science fiction, but if your type is a little more space opera and a little less philosophical, you might not enjoy it as much.
startrails on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
one of my favorite books ever!
bacillicide on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a good book. I love books that take you to different planets--in this case, it takes you to two, since the Cetians are not from Earth. Urras is a world similar to ours in both class systems and economy. Anarres is socialism in action, with no monetary system. It was really, really neat to read it and see a different way of doing things. It might be science fiction, but it's mostly an exploration of society
justifiedsinner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Deserves all it's accolades.
apatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An aunt gave me this when I was fifteen, seeing how I was getting into SF. That was kind of her but I don¿t know what she was thinking, I couldn't possibly get into this book at that age. In fact I gave up after about 50 pages. However, this is one of those books that won¿t go away. I keep getting recommendations to read it from web sites, forums and ¿all time best sf books¿ listings. So I eventually got around to it.Skipping the synopsis completely as I don¿t like to write them, this is a difficult book for me to read as it is very intelligent and require considerable intelligence from the reader, possibly a bit more than I possess! Some paragraphs where Le Guin is exploring political or philosophical ideas are barely readable because they go right over my head. Also, though the book is not that long it is not a quick read. I tried to read it fast to be done with it had to put the brakes on and rewind, otherwise there would be no point in reading it at all. The book demands patience and concentration.At the end of the day this is a worthwhile read because it gave me something to think about, anarchism, our society, the way we live, tolerance, complacency, self righteousness etc. However, IMO this is not a book to read for enjoyment. Le Guin's "Left Hand of Darkness" is much more enjoyable as sf, while being equally serious. If you want to read Le Guin for entertainment her Earthsea Trilogy would work best. If you want cool tech and aliens this novel is also not for you. However, if you want something that makes you feel all contemplative this fits the bill very well.
thelorelei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ursula K Le Guin believes in the intelligence of her readers. As such, I can always count on a challenge from her work. Here, she juxtaposes a "utopian" moon against the traditional classist planet its population left behind. Because humans will seek power even within a supposedly hierarchy-less society, the scientific hegemony has effectively gagged Shevek, our protagonist. In order to spread his ideas to where they will actually be utilized, he risks his life in traveling back to the misogynist, corrupt planet from whence his ancestors fled, breaking a generations-long embargo of silence. This is a deep exploration of political idealism, of academic censorship, and of the child-like concept of "the grass is greener on the other side." Le Guin provides no pat conclusions, allowing the reader to make his or her own. Or not, as the case may be. Some situations defy conclusions.
The_Hibernator on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dispossessed is the story of a man who tries to begin a new relationship with a world which has been cut off from his own for several generations. It was an intelligent book: written for a thoughtful audience. It serves as a social commentary on sexuality, feminism, and social structure, with an emphasis on contrasting anarchy with a more caste-structured (democratic?/military?) society. Although I find LeGuin¿s ideas fascinating, I¿m not certain her version of anarchy would be quite that successful: aren¿t human beings territorial proprietarians by nature? Let¿s face it¿people like owning stuff.
lauriebrown54 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dispossessed is a story with multiple levels. On one level, it¿s the story of a man- Shevek- on a quest. On another, it¿s a utopian/dystopian novel. On yet another, it¿s about the nature of time. Shevek lives on Anarres, a large moon of the planet Urras. Anarres is a harsh world with sparse resources. There is no luxury and there are sometimes privations, but the people live in an anarchic socialist state. There is no property; everyone shares everything- if one goes hungry, all go hungry. If there is excess food, all eat well. In theory, everyone is free to do what they want, but this is a very organized anarchy. The Division of Labor¿s computers show all jobs available and you pick what you want, or, in times of crisis, are asked to take specific jobs. Syndicates decide how to deal with specific issues. This is where Shevek runs into trouble. He is a physicist working on a unified theory of time. His theory is at odds with the theory the head of the university syndicate has worked on. When the syndicate refuses to publish his theory, he finds that even a society based on equality, freedom, sharing and not having anyone superior to any other has it¿s rules, rulers and ways of making people conform. When Shevek does get his theory published, he gets it sent to Urras. He is awarded a prize for the innovation and importance of his work, and this is where the story starts: as he leaves for Urras. While there has been some small trade between the worlds, the people do not mingle. Ever. The story weaves two time streams together: Shevek¿s life from his childhood, leading to the point where the story starts, and Shevek¿s life as he goes to Urras. Some have found this technique hard to follow, but it emphasizes Shevek¿s theory of time being simultaneous rather than sequential. Urras (where the Anerres people migrated from less than 200 years before) is the opposite of Anerres: society is materialistic, capitalistic, class and gender stratified. Many people go hungry while a few have food to waste. But it¿s a luxurious world; there is great wealth, both in the upper class people¿s lives and in natural beauty. Here there are trees, flowers, grass, abundant rain. Shevek enters this world as a noble savage- will he hold to his ethics, or be seduced by the soft Urras life they offer him? In the end, it¿s obvious that neither society is perfect and that things still need to be worked out. Written in 1974, this book explores a lot of the issues that were important then. The situation of Urran women as property, kept from education and jobs, vs the gender equality on Anarres steps right out of the second feminist movement. There is some space given to anti-war sentiment; the Viet Nam war would have been winding down while this book was being written. The biggest theme, of course, is communism vs capitalism, which was a big issue in the 70s. What saves this book from being a ponderous treatise on sociology and politics is the characters. Le Guin¿s people are complex, rounded, interesting people. We have no caricatures here, we have living, breathing humanoids dealing with the effects of the society they live in. Despite the 36 years since this book was written, it remains both meaningful and engaging.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Social commentary for those of us who need spaceships in order to take a book seriously. I'm not sure that anarcho-communism is actually the answer to the woes of humanity, but it makes a fun story. Count me out of the first moon colony. Seriously.
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A 1974 sci-fi novel about a scientist and activist bridging the culture gap between a plausible anarchic society (a sort of non-authoritarian communism) and a capitalistic society much like ours today. It¿s a great, intelligent book, full of unexpected little edges and juicy threads ¿both at the societal and at the personal level.It especially resonated in me because the brief segments when le Guin describes the creative cycles of Shevek, the main character, are so close to what I¿ve been experiencing through my Ph.D.: long periods of apparently aimless research that turn out to be solid foundations of novel ideas; sudden inspiration one night followed by an inability to put it all together the next morning, and so on. The bits about research politics and the free dissemination of science are also spot on.
seitherin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I understand why the people who really like this book really like this book. Unfortunately, for me, it was just this side of unbearably dull. I've read textbooks that were more engaging than this book was.
exhume_consume on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a staggering novel of both intense complexity and subtle simplicity. le guin stands alone in her ability to use science fiction as a form of sociology. this is my favorite book by le guin and would encourage anyone unfamiliar with her work to begin exploring it here.
RebeccaAnn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
MILD SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!!!To start off, this book can be very confusing if you don't understand a few key facts. First, the story takes place on sister planets (each one serves as the other's moon): Urras, which is the original planet, and Anarres, a planet populated by anarchists who rebelled against the Urrasti government. Second, the chapters bounce back and forth between the present and Shevek's (the Anarresti main character) life growing up, before he undertook the task of going back to Urras in an attempt to develop his Theory of Simultaneity and share it with all of the known intelligent life in the universe.There is a lot going on with politics. Urras is made of two major nations, A-Io and Thu, obvious allusions to the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union respectably. Then there is Anarres, which is a socialist planet where everyone is dependent upon each other because the conditions of the planet are so harsh. There are only a few species of life on Anarres and if humans don't work together, the species as a whole will perish.The story begins with Shevek boarding the Mindful, a ship which will take him back to Urras. While there, he is bombarded with wants and desires he has never experienced, having come from a planet in which no one really owns anything because there is so little to be had (a common phrase amongst the Anarresti is "no one starves while another eats"). For the first time, Shevek has money and is able to have actual possessions. He gets sucked into the capitalist world and for almost a year, he does no work. His change of heart comes from seeing the other side of capitalism, the poorer side. The government, having kept Shevek boarded amongst the richer part of society, did not want an anarchist inspiring the poor to rebel. When Shevek sees the poor, he must come to terms with the fact that he has become what he most despises: a profiteer.The Dispossessed is much more of a mental journey than a physical one. In fact, looking back at the book, there's not much action in it at all. However, I still found myself intrigued by the story. I could see this book because the source of heavy debate in the way it portrays socialism, capitalism, anarchy, and government as a whole (anarchy is greatly favored while government is scorned at) and while I can't agree with the idea of a total lack of government, I can see the pros and cons of both systems.This is a good book if you really want to think, but not so much if you want a real page turner. It's a very confusing read, and I'll definitely be reading it again. There is no way I caught all the little details. The book has too much scope to take it all in the first reading through.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Recently, I've read a number of books written by Ursula LeGuin. This after having somehow avoided her for the last forty years, largely as a result of her Earthsea cycle. I've come to enjoy her science fiction with an anthropological slant, best represetned by The Left Hand of Darkness and her Hainish tales. This novel takes it a liitle further, adding a very philosophical political commentary to the sociological layer of the story.Our backdrop is the Tau Ceti system, and more particularly the inhabited planets of Anvarres and Urras. Urras is the cradle of Cetian civilization and is composed of several different nation states, the two most prominent being A-Io and Thu; the former, a free market capitalist state (think United States) and the latter an authoritarian Communist state (think U.S.S.R.). It would seem that 200 years in the past, the underclass of A-Io revolted under the leadership of an anarchist/libertarian by the name of Odo. The Odoists were gathered up and settled on the stark, barely survivable moon, Anvarres. There, they built their ideal anarchist society, with no concept of ownership or personal entitlement. Pronouns such as "my" and "mine" were not even part of their language. The worst insult from an Anvarren would be to term someone an "egoist" or "profiteer". Their motto: "No one starves while others eat." Though plenty starved. The two planets are almost completely isolated from one another.Our protagonist is an Anvarren physisist, Shevek. Shevek cannot fully explore his ground breaking theories (involving instantaeous space travel, Simulaneity) on Anvarres and is invited to study and publish in A-Io, an unprecedented turn of events. It is Shevek's journey to A-Io, his observations and the interactions between the several competing political systems that make up this novel. There is a second thread which describes the lead up to Shevek's journey, in which we learn more of the Anvarren, anarcho-socialist civilization, and its far from ideal operation.This novel becomes somewhat weighted with political discourse and even theoretical physics, sometimes to the detriment of the underlying story. However, by and large, it is a fair treatment of the various political systems, their strengths and weaknesses. We see two alien races interacting with the Cetians, the Terrans and the Hainish. For those familiar with the Hainish tales of LeGuin, we discover the source of the ansible, a communications device allowing instantaneous communication throughout space. The story is similar in style to Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in its socio-political overtones, but not as dense as some of Philip Dick's or Frank Herbert's work. Bottom line: A worthwhile and enjoyable read.
jonathon.hodge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant discussion of a possible future - she shows the limits of her anarchist politics perhaps unintentionally.