The Dispossessed - by Ursula K. LeGuin
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I just finished my first Ursula K. LeGuin - The Dispossessed, after having heard about her through shadowing this group!
I enjoyed it and thought there were some thought-provoking ideas in it. I also liked how, unlike a lot of dystopia novels that present one society as totally bad and another as totally good, this novel featured a number of different cultures and societies, all with their own positives and negatives.
I noticed that a lot of people here seem to own the book? Anyone interested in sharing thoughts and impressions? I am still digesting it and trying to put my thoughts in shape to write a review.
Hey, I am joining this group late, but I thought I would reply anyway.
This is one of my favorite books ever. I have to disagree with you a bit, though--I don't think this is really meant to by dystopic. I think that Le Guin is setting up Anarres to be a Utopia, but showing that setting up an ideal society is not as easy as it sounds. I mean, this group of people gets an isolated planet to set up their society as they want, with no outside influences to clash with their values. They do an admirable job of trying to set up a just society, where people do not blindly follow authority, but darned if human nature doesn't block them by creating cultural rules that are just as restricting as authoritarian laws.
Still, I think that Anarres was far and away better than Urras. The Urrasti were much kinder to their planetary environment than humans are to earth, but beyond that, their culture was pretty repellent, in my opinion. Infantilizing women and shutting them out of public discourse is pretty awful. And the idea that the only reason to do anything is to make money? Again, pretty bad. Anarres may be a failed ideal, but at least its people are trying to live to an ideal.
I do agree that there were definitely good things about Urras and bad things about Anarres, but I wouldn't say that they were equivalent societies.
What did you think about the type of society that the Odonians attempted to create? Have you read any more Le Guin since this?
If you can find it, her book The Language of the Night talk about some of her thinking behind the novel.
A great book and a great discussion. I think the aim of this book is to show how any type of society or culture or political regime can have it's good points and it's bad. That there is no better there is only different and finding out what suits you best.
There is a lot of idealism on behalf of the main character, which I think is brilliant but like many idealists he learns all too well that ideas and reality don't often make good bed fellows.
Maybe because I am an ex-pat I can appreciate how he learns to appreciate his own society a bit more by living in a different one. Originally his aim was purely selfish, purely about science but again he has to accept that a human cannot ignore politics, religion, economics, social crisis etc if he wants to live with other people. The ideas are not enough.
Although i was also brought up by a radical and a feminist so spent my diaper hood on protest marches :D
Anyway, I think it's a really good reflection of modern society and culture all of it's ills all of it's potential. It's a really invigorating read and highly inspiring if like me you would like to write socio-politically based SF.
my review I wasn't impressed.
I enjoyed the social commentary, but it failed to work as a story. Which is a shame because she can write very good stories, and very good commentary. I'm not sure she's ever managed to successfully combine the two though.
Thank you for that thorough review, Fox!
I confess that as much as I want to like/love Le Guin, I just can't do it. I did manage to finish The Left Hand of Darkness, but I was almost through with it before I really began to enjoy it. Respect, yes, but enjoyment, not until they got on the ice.........
I do have a copy of Lavinia which I hope to read this summer, and I have great hopes for it having cheated and looked in it a little.
Edited to erase a tag that I don't know how to do. Off to find out how. And re-edited to see whether I could get the coding done correctly. And re-re-edited because I didn't do it right.
I liked how each planet's society had its good points and its bad points. Too much sociological SF either goes full bore for "this society would be *wonderful*" (I am still trying to finish Looking Backwards) or "this society would be *awful*" (insert dystopia here).
One would think more authors would be capable of greater subtlety, but too many go for one mode or the other.
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