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 Urras to challenge the complex structures of life and living and ignite the fires of change

10 thoughts on “The Dispossessed

  1. says:

    First of all if you haven't already read The Dispossessed then do so Somehow probably because it comes with an SF sticker it isn't yet officially labeled as one of the great novels of the 20th century They're going to fix that eventually so why not get in ahead of the crowd? It's not just a terrific story it might change your life Ursula Le Guin is saying some pretty important stuff hereSo what is it she's saying that's so important? I've read the book several times since I first came across it as a teenager and my perception of it has changed over time There's than one layer and I at least didn't immediately realize that On the surface the first thing you notice is the setting She is presenting a genuinely credible anarchist utopia Most utopias are irritating or just plain silly You read them and at best you shake your head and wish that people actually were like that or likely you wonder how the author can be quite so deluded This one's different Le Guin has thought about it a lot and taken into account the obvious fact that people are often selfish and stupid You feel that her anarchist society actually could work it doesn't work all the time and there are things about it that you see are going to cause problems But like the US Constitution one of my favorite utopian documents it seems to have the necessary flexibility and groundedness that allow it to adapt to changing circumstances and survive She's done a good job and you can't help admiring the brave and kind AnnarestiAnother thing you're immediately impressed by is the central character Shevek Looking at the other reviews everyone loves Shevek I love him too He's one of the most convincing fictional scientists I know I'm a scientist myself so I'm very sensitive to the nuances Like his society he's not in any way perfect and his life is a long struggle to try and understand the secrets of temporal physics which he often feels are completely beyond him I was impressed by the alien science she gives you just the right amount of background that it feels credible but not so much that you're tempted to nit pick the details You're swept up in his quest to unify Sequency and Simultaneity without ever needing to know exactly what they are And his relationship with Takver is a great love story with some wonderfully moving scenes There's one line in particular which despite being utterly simple and understated never fails to bring tears to my eyes As you also see in The Lathe of Heaven Le Guin knows about loveWhat I've said so far would already be enough to qualify this as a good book that was absolutely worth reading What I think makes it a great book is her analysis of the concept of freedom There are so many other interesting things to look at that at first you don't quite notice it but to me it's the core of the novel What does it mean to be truly free? At first you think that the Annaresti have already achieved that it's just a question of having the right social structures But after a while you see that it's not nearly as straightforward as you first imagined Real freedom means that you have to be able to challenge the beliefs of the people around you when they conflict with what you yourself truly believe and that can be painful for everyone But it's essential and it's particularly essential if you want to be a scientist I know this from personal experience Another theme that suffuses the book is the concept of the Promise If you can't make and keep promises then you have no influence on the future you are locked in the present But promising something also binds your future self There are some deep paradoxes here The book folds the arguments unobtrusively into the narrative and never shoves them in your face but after a while you see that they are what tie all the strands together the anarchist society the science the love story the politics It's a much deeper book than you first realize As I said it might change your life It's changed mine