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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
5,762121737 (4.14)1 / 340
  1. 40
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Algybama)
  2. 20
    Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin (sturlington)
    sturlington: Compare and contrast.
  3. 31
    His Master's Voice by Stanisław Lem (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Both deal with the social and cultural roots of science.
  4. 20
    Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin (sturlington)
  5. 10
    Rocannon's world by Ursula K. Le Guin (andomck)
    andomck: Both are books in the Hainish Cycle.
  6. 00
    Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (sturlington)
  7. 00
    Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock (andomck)
    andomck: Brooding,introspective sci fi/fantasy
  8. 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.
  9. 00
    Distress by Greg Egan (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: These books share isolated anarchist communities and discoveries in physics that change everything.
  10. 45
    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
  11. 02
    The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick (MyriadBooks)
  12. 24
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (LamontCranston)
  13. 216
    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (lauranav)
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English (117)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Turkish (1)  All languages (121)
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
Easily identifiable as a Le Guin work, this story is non-chronological and manages to fully realize two societies without providing detailed descriptions of every imaginable aspect of them. Instead, situations, events, beliefs, and paradigms shared by characters work to plunge the reader into alien cultures with the sort of 'instant immersion' method used in modern language studies. The tale follows Shevek, a brilliant physicist who has lived his life on an isolated moon colony with a group of dissidents, anarchists who lift their home planet several generations ago. As the novel opens he is leaving to return to the home planet (a place filled with profiteers and social classes) to complete his theory of Simultaneity, and to try to share cultures and unite two isolated worlds. As the novel remarks:

"He was alone, here, because he came from a self-exiled society. He had alwavs been alone on his own world because he had exiled himself from his society. The Settlers had taken one step away. He had taken two. He stood by himself, because he had taken the metaphysical risk.

And he had been fool enough to think that he might serve to bring together two worlds to which he did not belong."


Through Shevek's eyes the reader sees the advantages and disadvantages of a communal society and a capitalist society, the tendency of bureaucracy (and hierarchies) to creep into groups, the resolute way in which people blind themselves to the truth of the world around them, and the changes that immersion in a new culture, in the other, will bring. He goes forth, throughout his life, with empty hands, a stranger and a brother even as he completes a theory that will change all of the communicating Hainish worlds.

The novel's near perfect ending includes the poignant statement, "But he had not brought anything. His hands were empty, as they had always been."

Acute, poignant, world building and society building-- the novel does not preach or provide allegory. Rather it creates, without condoning or condemning the worlds or those who populate them. It leaves the reader not only lacking all of the answers, but feeling that they don't even have all of the questions. When it finished my chest ached, yet I wanted nothing changed about where or how the novel stopped. The tale is unapologetic, eloquent, and beautiful. ( )
2 vote Ailinel | May 3, 2015 |
Ideas alone do not make great novels. I see this truth most clearly illustrated in Orwell's 1984, but there have been many other novels that neglected the story for some random thought or theory. There are many people who love these stories—I, in my many attempts to figure out what is wrong with me, cannot figure out why. I tend to find them not only boring, but unrealistic (NO! Not the rats! Not the RATS!!!). So anytime I come across a novel that is the next great such-and-such or anti-such-and-such, I am wary. Even if it is promoting a philosophy I agree with, I'd rather read about it in a work of non-fiction. When I sit down to read a story, I want a story, and I want characters; I don't not want political theory.

So I had some apprehension about reading Le Guin's The Dispossessed. I'd heard of comparisons and they were not pleasant comparisons. Add to that my lack of comfort with many science-fiction stories (I love sci-fi, but most of what I've read is weak in one regard or another). But I'd also heard so many good things about Le Guin in general that I knew I couldn't drag my feet forever.

The Dispossessed is certainly guilty of pandering to theory-seekers. There are moments when Le Guin lets the story get away from her and become a discourse on government. Characters step out of character and discuss politics in a manner that doesn't seem organic. But these moments are few and far between. Overall, Le Guin keeps to the story and the story is a good one. Not only is Shevek's journey to Urras and his subsequent understandings interesting, but the worlds Le Guin has created here are wonderfully built; careful attention is given to ecology, topography, etc., and especially to society.

I thought the concluding chapters were a little shaky. They distracted from the novel's best moments. But that's the worst I can say about this novel. There are those distractions, moments when the theory takes center stage, but these distractions kindly step aside and let the story have its share of the spotlight. A refreshing variation in regards to the idea-based novel. ( )
  chrisblocker | Apr 21, 2015 |
I just couldn't appreciate this the way so many others do.

The way the story is told in the past, so we learn things as they're revealed rather than as the characters are experiencing them, provides a disconnect. Perhaps it is meant to serve to point out the universality of the themes - but I found that it made me feel distanced, as if none of the story mattered.

I suppose if I were younger and still interested in political ideas and revolutions, if I hadn't read, and lived through, lots of other exposures to ideas like these, I'd find it more interesting.

And if I were more naive I wouldn't be so ready to quibble over the arguments - such as the presentation of the upper classes of Urras being so very self-absorbed and without conscience. Ok, so Le Guin is no [a:Sinclair Lewis|7330|Sinclair Lewis|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1205204856p2/7330.jpg] or [a:Upton Sinclair|23510|Upton Sinclair|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1185924176p2/23510.jpg], but does Urras have no Jane Addams or Margaret Sanger? Ok, perhaps one of Le Guin's themes, that of male dominance, is meant to reveal that Urras first needs a Carrie Chapman Catt. But thinking about that begs me to ask - in 1400 years of Urrasti there has been none?

I suppose, too, if I'd read it when it was first written, when it was ground-breaking and influential, it would have made more of an impression on me.

I do not see 'science fiction' here at all, really. I see something I'd call 'speculative literature.' It's got that highbrow vibe and almost no actual doings of science. I much prefer my sf to make its points with some joy, or fun, or adventure, or even humor thrown in. Think [a:Asimov Isaac|16667|Isaac Asimov|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1286862859p2/16667.jpg]'s Robot Stories or [a:Robert Heinlein|205|Robert A. Heinlein|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1192826560p2/205.jpg] or [a:Charles Sheffield|32276|Charles Sheffield|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1276323505p2/32276.jpg].

I felt as if Le Guin wanted to teach me something, even preach at me a bit. But even lecturers can present their ideas more engagingly than this. It finally got interesting as the two pasts converged to the present - but the book unfortunately ended just as it was about to start being a narrative into which I could sink my teeth. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
A very thought-provoking novel about a Physicist's journey to an alien planet, whose social/political structure clashes so harshly against his own anarchic/socialistic upbringing back home. It was interesting to read the events leading up to his departure and his experience upon arrival, separated into chapters, constantly flitting forward and backward in time and piece together Shevek's journey bit by bit. However it does seem to drag a bit at times. Sometimes the philosopising can overtake the progression of events in the novel, making this read drag a little. Still a good read though. Left hand of darkness is still my fav of LeGuin's novels, however. ( )
  nmg1 | Mar 20, 2015 |
Fascinating and compelling exploration of how an anarchist world without central government might actually work. Very human flawed but inspiring characters. ( )
  Matt_B | Jan 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall 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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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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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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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

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