#78: The Dispossessed – Ursula Le Guinn

The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

The Dispossessed is an engaging and intellectually stimulating trip into a Sci-Fi universe that’s well thought out and very interesting. The two main locations in the book are Urras a planet inhabited by humans who’s society very much so mirrors the society/societies found on Earth, and Anarres the moon of Urras. Anarres is a sort of Utopian society that is oft described as an anarchist utopia but to me it much more resembles an off-shoot of communism. There’s no money, everyone is provided housing and an allotment of food. There is an overarching body that gives people work assignments; these can be ignored but rarely are as there is some social pressure to accept them. Anarres is a society where everyone owns everything and nothing at the same time. Urras is a capitalist system that most of us are well acquainted with.

Shevek is the protagonist of the story, a physicist who’s theories hold the key to faster-than-light space travel. He’s committed to dispersing his theories to all societies simultaneously so none can use them to take advantage of other civilizations. He’s complex, imperfect, does some shady things, and some heroic things.

i like how Le Guinn uses the story to ask some questions that 40ish years after publication are still powerful: She looks at sexism in society; she questions both capitalism and (what i call) semi-communism; she probes at the basic nature of humans individually, collectively, and governmentally; and she leaves us thinking about how innovation is sometimes used as an aggressive tool politically.

 

Overall i’d give The Dispossessed a Book Club of One grade of C+: The concepts are great, the writing is solid, but for some reason i had to force myself to stay engaged with the book. It’s an intangible thing for me that i can’t put my finger on.  Pick it up if you’re looking for a Sci-Fi read with some heft to the story that could leave you thinking about bigger things.

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