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The Dispossessed (1974)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hainish Cycle, Chronological (1), Hainish Cycle (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,737220681 (4.15)1 / 500
Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the anarchist moon Anarres, risks his life by traveling to the mother planet of Urras in the hope of offering wisdom to its inhabitants and to reunite the two long-alienated worlds.
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  1. 61
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Algybama)
  2. 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.
  3. 31
    His Master's Voice by Stanisław Lem (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Both deal with the social and cultural roots of science.
  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. 10
    Embassytown by China Miéville (sparemethecensor)
  7. 00
    The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two opposing cultures collide in both works. Urras = The Empire but their opposites (Annares and The Culture) have very little in common. Annares is determined by scarcity, the Culture by its lack.
  8. 00
    Amatka by Karin Tidbeck (andomck)
  9. 00
    Gateway by Frederik Pohl (sturlington)
  10. 11
    Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock (andomck)
    andomck: Brooding,introspective sci fi/fantasy
  11. 00
    Distress by Greg Egan (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: These books share isolated anarchist communities and discoveries in physics that change everything.
  12. 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.
  13. 56
    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
  14. 02
    The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick (MyriadBooks)
  15. 25
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (LamontCranston)
  16. 318
    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (lauranav)
1970s (39)
Walls (2)
Utopia (1)

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» See also 500 mentions

English (210)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Turkish (1)  All languages (217)
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
Ursula K. Le Guin. Que mujer! ( )
  Pindarix | Jul 15, 2021 |
The Dispossessed is the fourth book published in the Hainish Cycle, although chronologically it takes place before the other three.

This book is kind of a thought experiment in government (or self-government) styles. The story is set on two neighboring planets. The main character, Shevek, is from a world called Anarres with a more socialist approach in terms of distribution of resources and opportunities. There is no government though, nobody is in charge, and the only real “rules” are enforced by societal expectations. The people on this planet are descendants of anarchists who left their home planet, Urras. Urras is more of a capitalist society. At the beginning of the story, Shevek is boarding a space shuttle. He’ll be the first person from Anarres to go to Urras since the original colony left, and relations between the planets aren’t good. As Shevek is trying to leave, people on Anarres form a violent mob trying to stop him and calling him a traitor, but he makes it onto the shuttle and the story begins.

The story flips between two timelines – the present timeline in which Shevek goes to Urras, and a past timeline that starts from his childhood and goes up to the point where he makes the decision to go to Urras. Le Guin portrays both strengths and weaknesses for both societies, but there’s a clear preference for Anarres, at least in the main character’s eyes. Anarres’ weaknesses are portrayed as problems with human nature, rather than problems with its foundational concepts. It isn’t so much that their society doesn’t work as it is that the people have gone astray from its original intent and lost their way.

The setting is interesting, I liked the main character quite a bit, and there were times I was very interested in the story. However, this book was easy for me to put down. I got tired of the endless debates and discussions and theorizing regarding the different governing philosophies. It got repetitive. Additionally, it might have been groundbreaking at the time it was published, but I didn’t find its thoughts to be particularly new or revelatory for me today. When an author wants to explore two different philosophies, I like it better if they limit the on-page debates and let the reader use their own mind. Portray the societies as intended, tell the story set in them, maybe start the reader off with a couple obvious hints, then let the reader have their own internal debates about the aspects that interest them, if any. For me, this felt too much like spoon feeding, even forced spoon feeding at times.

I think I was most interested during the beginning and ending, and scattered moments throughout the middle. The ending seemed as if it were launching an entirely new and interesting related story that I really wanted to read, and then it just ended without any closure. However, I’ve not been much satisfied with any of the endings in this series, so I wasn’t surprised. I really wanted to see how the Hainish representative fared on Anarres. I wanted to see what happened to Shevek when he returned. I wanted to see how Anarres had changed while he was gone, and how or if they would continue to change. I wanted to see how events impacted the relationship between Anarres and Urras. I wanted to see Shevek’s reunion with his family and find out how they had fared while he was gone. I do get the “bookend” aspect in which we have Shevek leaving at the beginning of the story and arriving at the end, but I prefer endings with more closure.

I did enjoy seeing the beginnings of the ansible which is referenced in the previous books. I predicted this would happen from early on when I understood what kind of science Shevek was interested in, and when it became clear from the discussions of Hainish technology that we were pre-ansible. It was fun to see that confirmed, and to learn the story behind how it was developed.

So, this is a 3-star rating for me. There are a lot of things to like, but there were things I disliked too and my interest level was all over the place. I’m going to move on from the Hainish series. The stories are interesting, and I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but I’ve had my fill for now. Since each book stands alone very well, I’ll consider coming back to read an individual book here and there in the future. ( )
4 vote YouKneeK | Jun 19, 2021 |
The subtitle is "an ambiguous utopia". And I can't top that as a review.
  thenumeraltwo | Jun 9, 2021 |
See my review for this novel in Le Guin's collection:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2816799648?book_show_action=false&from... ( )
  quantum.alex | May 31, 2021 |
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the biggest names in science fiction that I've never read anything by -- until now. The Dispossessed exists in Le Guin's "Hainish Cycle" world, although there is no required order for the the series as each book is self contained. The world The Dispossessed includes a pair of worlds -- a planet and moon. The planet is like Earth in the 70s, with major power in a communist and a capitalist power. The moon, however, is a communist utopia where there is no violence, need, or want and everyone pursues what they want. When a scientist from the moon is brought to the planet, the superpowers battle over scientific control while struggling to change. ( )
  adamfortuna | May 28, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (120 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bontrup, HiltrudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craft, KinukoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ducak, DaniloCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebel, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ewyck, Annemarie vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Körber, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leslie, DonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nölle, KarenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AnthonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sârbulescu, EmilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkowski, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was a wall.
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.
Like all power seekers, Pae was amazingly shortsighted. There was a trivial, abortive quality to his mind; it lacked depth, affect, imagination. It was, in fact, a primitive instrument.
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Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the anarchist moon Anarres, risks his life by traveling to the mother planet of Urras in the hope of offering wisdom to its inhabitants and to reunite the two long-alienated worlds.

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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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