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The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
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The Dispossessed (1974)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hainish Cycle (5), Hainish Cycle, Chronological (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,487139589 (4.14)1 / 400
  1. 60
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Algybama)
  2. 41
    His Master's Voice by Stanisław Lem (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Both deal with the social and cultural roots of science.
  3. 20
    Island by Aldous Huxley (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two utopian books. The advantage of LeGuin's is that it doesn't have anything worth exploiting and it is a rocket flight away.
  4. 20
    Rocannon's World by Ursula K. Le Guin (andomck)
    andomck: Both are books in the Hainish Cycle.
  5. 10
    New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (LamontCranston)
  6. 11
    Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock (andomck)
    andomck: Brooding,introspective sci fi/fantasy
  7. 00
    Doctor Mirabilis by James Blish (jpers36)
    jpers36: Life story of a genius physicist destined to revolutionize a stagnant culture with his radical scientific insights.
  8. 00
    Distress by Greg Egan (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: These books share isolated anarchist communities and discoveries in physics that change everything.
  9. 02
    The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick (MyriadBooks)
  10. 24
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (LamontCranston)
  11. 57
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: A different moon, a different anti-authoritarian community, but the same experience of thinking about other ways to run human societies
  12. 217
    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (lauranav)
1970s (69)
Unread books (1,021)
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English (134)  French (2)  German (1)  Turkish (1)  Spanish (1)  All (139)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
The book starts when Shevek starts his journey from Anarres to Urras. From that moment on, the book alternates chapters taking place in the present with Shevek on Urras with chapters detailing Shevek’s past and how he came to be where he is now, and who he is now. I tend to find this switching annoying, however in this book I really liked it. The alternating chapters gave each other a deeper meaning by providing a backstory to what is happening to Shevek in the present as he recalls certain times or events.

Shevek comes from the world Anarres, which is the moon of the planet Urras. The Anarresti left Urras about 200 years ago after an uprising against the economic and socio-political structure of the world at that time (patriarchal, capitalist). Founded as a world of anarchists, where there are no laws, everyone is equal and the guiding principle is to do what is best for all. After 200 years though, anarchism has evolved into a form of communism, where any form of ‘egoising’ is admonished. Personal property, for example, is virtually non-existant, and instead of saying ‘my book’ they would say ‘the book that I am using’. Shevek, and a small group of friends he collects through the years, begin to realise that the idealised anarcho-communism of their world is, in places, turning into an oligarchy, where the work placement committee is deciding what is best for the planet, and they don’t like to be defied. So, instead of posting people where they are best skilled for, dissidents get far out postings where they can be kept ‘harmless’.

Shevek, as a brilliant physicist who far surpasses any other scientist on Anarres, gets restless. After being exposed to Urrasti scientific ideas, he starts communicating with the homeplanet, and eventually realises he must go there. As the first Anarresti to leave the planet since his people came, he is both applauded (by his friends) and greatly reviled for doing this.

While growing up, Anarresti children learn that Urras is an immoral place, with an extravagant lifestyle and strict capitalism. When Shevek arrives, he is ushered to the University that invited him, shown to his fancy room, and introduced to the scientists he’s been corresponding with.

For a while everything is well, but then Shevek grows restless. Everything he’s being shown is so very nice. Everyone is cordial, he gets shown around all the pretty things. However, he never gets to see the people outside the University without supervision. And as he starts to realise this, he also realises he is being used. And instead of the universal theory he is developing benefitting everyone, they want to use it for themselves, to make a profit and to keep the other nations (and worlds) under control.

Shevek manages to escape from the University, and as he meets and interacts with the middle and lower classes he learns of their problems, and becomes, almost by accident, a frontman for their resistance and the core of people that want to follow the ideals of Odo, the founder of the Anarres way of life.

After a bloody rebellion, he learns there is no way that he can bring the change he wanted to these people, and he finds a safe haven in the Terran Embassy. As they prepare to bring him home, a Hainish crewman on the ship decides to go down to the planet with Shevek. To meet his people and learn of his world.

The book is, in terms of sci-fi, a softer version. Especially in the chapters taking place on Anarres, where the technology level is much lower in daily life due to scarcity of many resources. I liked how the sci-fi nature of the world building was subdued, it really let the intellectual exploration of all these different ideas (socio-economic systems, political systems, higher physics) come to the forefront. I found it to be a great book that really got me thinking. I’d been taught these systems in school, however, this was pretty rudimentary and dealt more with how these systems should be, ideally. I enjoyed the exploration on how these societies could develop and how the system would evolve.

Bottom Line
I LOVED this book! This is the type of book that I enjoy greatly, especially in sci-fi and fantasy settings, where a culture that is (mostly) alien to us (being your everyday reader) gets an in-depth exploration. Other examples of this are Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy (of which I, regretfully, have so far only read the first book: Hominids) and Ken Macleod’s Learning the World.

In Short
Pro: A thinking book.
Con: Not so much in the story itself, but it would have been nice to have it mentioned in the lists of other works and so, that this is part of a series of sorts.

http://www.tsemoana.net/?p=1512
1 vote TseMoana | May 9, 2017 |
OK, I hate to say I didn't like a classic but this was painful. She's a good author with interesting ideas but this one bored me to tears. Too preachy. The book was written to propose feminism, communism and homosexuality are good and and everything else is less. I'm not saying she is wrong or does not have good points but...you have to tell a good story. I suspect that everyone who gave it five stars is pushing an agenda and ignores the, "not her best work" issue. ( )
  ikeman100 | May 7, 2017 |
I'm not sure if the problem with this book is that I'm just not into science fiction or with the book itself. Not having read much science fiction, I'm not sure I can write a great review for this, but here are my thoughts.

I was hoping to be engaged and transported to a different world. Instead, I felt bogged down by first having to learn about this different world and then felt preached at about different forms of government and their pros and cons. The characters felt secondary to the world-building and political thought. I was bored.

I think that pretty much sums up my reading experience. I apologize to the many LTers who love [[Ursula K. LeGuin]]! ( )
1 vote japaul22 | May 4, 2017 |
I liked this. I know I didn't get everything out of it on the first reading. I'll definitely read other books in the same universe. ( )
  adamwolf | Apr 26, 2017 |
The Dispossessed -- which has not been out of print since its original publication in 1974 -- is one of Le Guin's most famous works, and both entertaining and intellectually challenging.

It is a book of opposites: a Utopian novel that doesn't refuse to expose the flaws of its model society; a feminist-themed narrative with a male protagonist; a social commentary that presents communal cooperation as the truest human ideal, yet focuses on the inevitable separateness of the creative individual within such a structure. Through these dichotomies, Le Guin examines the tension between human aspiration and human nature, between what can be dreamed and what can be achieved.

The setting is on twin planets of Anarres and Urras, both of which see the other as a moon. This dichotomy is demonstrated with Anarres as an inhospitable planet that has been settled by revolutionaries from Urras who left behind the capitalist life on their home planet to found a new society on the moon. The resulting community is an extreme communal society where everything is shared and nothing is owned individually. Urras, on the other hand, is a world that somewhat resembles our own – a male dominated capitalist society where women have absolutely no official role in politics, science or education.

Urras and Anarres have very little contact between each other beyond the rocket ships that export minerals from Anarres. Visitors from Urras are forbidden from crossing beyond the walls of the rocket port. The hero of the novel is the physicist Shevek who visits Urras as a sort of unofficial ambassador with an agenda to bring about increased co-operation and communication between the two worlds. This theme of two drastically contrasting cultures intentionally isolated from each is reminiscent of Arthur C. Carke’s The City and the Stars where Alvin escapes from a immortal pleasure-filled life in the city of Diaspar.

Both of these novels involve a man returning back to his ‘home’ society in an attempt to reconcile the philosophies of ‘home’ and ‘colony’ to solve the problems of both. The teachings of these novels is clear – fleeing and isolating oneself from a corrupted society is not a solution. I wouldn’t pursue the comparison very far though; the novels are too different for that. The story is told from the point of view of Shevek and alternates between two timelines; one starting when he flees from Anarres under a cloud of disapproval from his fellow citizens who taunt him as a ‘profiteer’ and the other starting from his childhood and moving toward the point when he leaves Anarres.

The first narrative, based almost entirely on Urras, is driven forward by the reader's curiosity about when (and if) Shevek makes it back home and under what circumstances. The second storyline, which is based on Anarres is interesting because although we know that Shevek made it off Anarres we are not told how he managed it and what happened to his family.

Some of the conversations and speeches on the Anarresti brand of communalism are intense and provide food for thought. This larger theme, together with Le Guin's mature mastery of her craft, give The Dispossessed a universality that has prevented it from becoming dated, despite its roots in the political issues of its time (the communal counterculture of the late 60s and early 70s, the original women's movement). This novel achieves more than the typical genre work with serious ideas and literary merit, thus deserving the several awards with which it was rewarded. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Mar 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
I liked this. I know I didn't get everything out of it on the first reading. I'll definitely read other books in the same universe.
 
The Dispossessed -- which has not been out of print since its original publication in 1974 -- is one of Le Guin's most famous works, and both entertaining and intellectually challenging.

It is a book of opposites: a Utopian novel that doesn't refuse to expose the flaws of its model society; a feminist-themed narrative with a male protagonist; a social commentary that presents communal cooperation as the truest human ideal, yet focuses on the inevitable separateness of the creative individual within such a structure. Through these dichotomies, Le Guin examines the tension between human aspiration and human nature, between what can be dreamed and what can be achieved.

The setting is on twin planets of Anarres and Urras, both of which see the other as a moon. This dichotomy is demonstrated with Anarres as an inhospitable planet that has been settled by revolutionaries from Urras who left behind the capitalist life on their home planet to found a new society on the moon. The resulting community is an extreme communal society where everything is shared and nothing is owned individually. Urras, on the other hand, is a world that somewhat resembles our own – a male dominated capitalist society where women have absolutely no official role in politics, science or education.
 

» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craft, KinukoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ducak, DaniloCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebel, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AnthonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkowski, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was a wall.
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You shall not go down twice to the same river, nor can you go home again. That he knew; indeed it was the basis of his view of the world. Yet from that acceptance of transience he evolved his vast theory, wherein what is most changeable is shown to be fullest of eternity, and your relationship to the river, and the river's relationship to you and to itself, turns out to be at once more complex and more reassuring than a mere lack of identity. You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.
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Book description
The protagonist Shevek is a physicist attempting to develop a General Temporal Theory. Anarres is in theory a society without government or coercive authoritarian institutions. Yet in pursuing research that deviates from his society's current consensus understanding, Shevek begins to come up against very real obstacles. Shevek gradually develops an understanding that the revolution which brought his world into being is stagnating, and power structures are beginning to exist where there were none before. He therefore embarks on the risky journey to the original planet, Urras, seeking to open dialog between the worlds and to spread his theories freely outside of Anarres. The novel details his struggles on both Urras and his homeworld of Anarres.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061054887, Mass Market Paperback)

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. he will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Shevek, a brilliant physicist attempts to reunite two planets cut off from each other by centuries of distrust.

» see all 3 descriptions

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