Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin (EOS, first published 1974, rp – 2001)

Grade: Α — Great book, must read regardless of what Genres you enjoy.  Makes you think of things beyond the scope of the book. 

In brief:

Winner of the Hugo, Nebula World Fantasy and National Book Awards, The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin remains one of the best reads I’ve enjoyed, regardless of genre. Part of the Hainish Cycle, it is also a stand alone novel, whose storyline holds up brilliantly to the test of time.  It follows the life of a brilliant alien physicist and his personal and philosophical journey in both the anarcho-communist lunar colony in which he was born, and in aggressively capitalist-hegemonic state of his homeworld.  A wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone.  

Setting:

The story is split between the relatively lush planet of Urras and the colony on its harsh but life supporting moon.  Urras is part of the Hainish Universe (World),[1] which is consists of a future version of this Universe.  The Hainish universe was populated by an ancient race (the Hainish) that genetically altered their decedents for reasons that remain unclear, and seeded them around the galaxy.  The World as a whole involves a series of conflicts and power struggles, but within the chronologies of stories, these have not yet occurred (see http://wp.me/pWa2h-89 for more details). 

In Depth:

In case there was any doubt, I am a big fan of Ursula K. LeGuin, but this was a good book even for her.  After a read, one has no doubt as to why it won so many prizes, particularly at the time of its publication.  Her style is, as ever, simple and clear yet filled with beautiful imagery that sticks on one’s imagination.  The storyline is complex and interesting on a personal level, yet also comments on concepts of society and human nature in a manner that builds the story rather than detracts from it.  This is a talent that many writers should learn from, for there is nothing more irritating than reading some preachy blah blah blah that mimic the author’s potted theories on how the world should work. 

In this instance, the story and the commentary are intricately linked, and yet there is no long dialogue or diatribe that discusses social or political theory.  Instead, LeGuin just shows us.  The protagonist, Shevek, grows up in an anarcho-communist state, and then goes to live in a hegemonic capitalist one.  In the process, he encounters many of the downfalls of each.  This is, perhaps, what is brilliant about this work: it shows cutting commentary on the failures of both systems and as such gives a balanced view that makes you more willing to listen to the criticisms of each.

What is more, it is a human drama that one can relate to despite the fact that the protagonist is not human.  As ever, LeGuin tells a tale that pulls one through with a combination of superb writing and excellent plot. The plot, however, is definitely character drivenThe Dispossessed is not a tale of high adventure, but rather a fascinating tale of human interaction.  To that end, it could be classified as “Literary Fiction.”

If you are looking for starship battles, this is not the book you are seeking, but I suspect you will enjoy it all the same. 


[1] a series of six books (to date) — each a stand-alone novel taking place in a single universe.  The Dispossessed was the fourth book to be published, but appears to be the first in the World chronology. 

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About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Political Drama, Science Fiction, Series, Space Exploration, Stand Alone Novel, Strong Characters, Thoughtful, Uncategorized, Unique or Imaginative World, World and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin (EOS, first published 1974, rp – 2001)

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    One of my favorite (ever) novels — although Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness is better! A great read! I’m glad some classic works are entering your reviewing schedule.

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