Quite a brilliant book, using a science fiction setting to explore the politics of our world.
The main character is Shevek - a theoretical physicist fQuite a brilliant book, using a science fiction setting to explore the politics of our world.
The main character is Shevek - a theoretical physicist from the anarchist planet Anarres which is a satellite planet of the capitalist planet Urras. The culture of Anarres actually orginated on Urras - the demands of the proleteriat revolutionaries on Urras for freedom became too much for the government and they were permitted to colonise Anarres. The people living on Anarres have now been there for around 150 years - there is no centralised government or fixed systems of power. Everyone is considered equal and everyone is expected to do their fair share of work, even though there is no pay. Work is done for works sake or need. It is an idealistic, almost utopic society in which the people might not be rich, but there are free to do as they please - with no laws it is social disapproval that forms the basis of making sure people act responsibly.
However, there is a problem on Anarres. Anarchism has become tradition instead of constant change. Revolutionary ideas have become dogma and are regarded as being unquestionable. When Shevek wants to expand his knowledge and share his ideas with Urras, the people of Anarres turn against him and make not only his life difficult, but that of his friends and family. So Shevek volunteets to go to Urras, to exchange his scientific ideas - despite resistance, the lack of enforcement on Anarres means he can go.
Urras is a very different world to the one Shevek is used to. He finds it difficult to understand the duplicity and power systems of Urras, especially that which goes on between individual interactions Private ownership means nothing to Shevek and whilst the people of Urras used Shevek in their political games, Shevek remains blissfully unaware and exploited.
The best thing about The Dispossessed is that it does not at any point side with left or right politics. It shows the good and bad about Urras and Anarres v- the benefits of anarchy and its pitfalls, the corruption of capitalism and its triumphs. Anarchy provides people who are free and equal yet with slow development in technology and science. Capitalism provides variety, art, science, yet it is all built on the shoulders and blood of people who cannot benefit from what they create. Shevek is the perfect character to show us both of these socities - he is out of place on both Anarres and Urras.
Ultimately, the book is about ideologies. Systems and anarchy, power and freedom, idealism and realism, law and spirit, hypocrisy and truth, sacrifice and concession. It doesn't praise one system over the other, but compares them warts and all. The book is a passionate examination of human nature and how we can be corrupted and what we can achieve. It is about walls we build and walls we break down.
Whether you are a science fiction fan or not should not have any bearing on if you should read this book. It is a crucial read of anyone and is relevant at any time in any political climate. You will be mulling it over in your mind for a long time to come once finished.
Very good for a first novel. The book was full of imaginative ideas and had a very well-developed and thought out world. I found the story engaging anVery good for a first novel. The book was full of imaginative ideas and had a very well-developed and thought out world. I found the story engaging and didn't want to put it down. It does have some flaws - the writing is a little bit immature and sometimes the authors love for her characters comes through a little bit too clearly and interferes with her writing. There is a also a purely evil character that is terribly one dimensional. This really is just a few complaints though - the political scheming, gods as mortals and the authors ideas surrounding power more than make-up for any failings. I really look forward to seeing how these ideas of power and responsibility develop in future books. I'm not so much interested in the gods themselves but in how a world manages to operate with so much immortal interference in their lives.
It's a nice easy read too - nothing overly challenging, just an engaging and fun read! So many fantasy authors don't even manage that much. I'd definitely lend it out to friends....more
I would classify this book as leaning more towards fantasy rather than sci-fi - a genre that I am usually not very keen on. This time, however, I wasI would classify this book as leaning more towards fantasy rather than sci-fi - a genre that I am usually not very keen on. This time, however, I was captivated. The book takes a while to get going but the sheer scale of the world Mieville creates cannot help but draw you in. The descriptions of the people and the world are atmospheric and sometimes clever. You can imagine Mieville sitting surrounded by notebooks and paper that he has filled with information on his world of Bas-Lag - it feels like we are only getting a glimpse and it leaves you hungry for more.
The protaganist is Bellis Coldwine - a cold, interesting woman who thinks she is more worldly and astute than it turns out is true. She is fleeing New Crobuzon for reasons based upon Mieville's previous book Perdido Street Station (which I have not read) when her ship is attacked by pirates and she is pressganged to work in the giant floating city of Armada. What follows is a story of dangerous islands, magic, creatures larger than mountains, politics and possibilities.
The narrative current running beneath all the adventure is one of secrets, manipulation and espionage. It is this that ultimately drives the story. You may not know until the very end who is playing who - certainly Bellis (who despite being hard-edged and self-protective) learns her lessons about control and manipulation the hard way. Although some have said Bellis is hard to warm to I found she was quite sympathetic - we have all been naive when we thought we were being clever at some point. I also thought that Mieville himself wrote Bellis as if he was fond of her and I fully expect to see her turn up in future stories set in the world of Bas-Lag.
One criticism that can be levelled at Mieville is that he leaves us feeling unsatisfied. Strands of the story are unresolved. They are meant to be and the author has good reason for the decision but I can't help but hoping for a book that will follow this one and finally take us to the destination promised in the title.
Mieville's writing is full of energy and invention backed up with a calm, disciplined intelligence. ...more
This book is about one of my favourite subjects - the multiverse and the ontological pickle. Our protaganist, Paul Girard, is granted the ability to tThis book is about one of my favourite subjects - the multiverse and the ontological pickle. Our protaganist, Paul Girard, is granted the ability to traverse the mutliverse - an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of possible variations - using a yo-yo made of "strange matter". All he has to do is think of where he wants to go, spin the yo-yo and he'll be there. However, with an infinite number of possibilities there is an infinite amount of interpretation that can be applied to your wishes. Paul discovers this quite fast as he misadventures through cellular automata, meme worlds, universes ruled by chaos or morphic resonances, singularities and finally, the Omega Point. He picks up quite a few people along the way and by the end, perhaps learns something from it.
The real treat in reading this book is the sheer amount of ideas that Di Filippo pours out onto every page. Menger sponges, references to the work of Italo Calvino, group personalities, happy cats, and the biggest question humanity has ever asked - "Why is there something instead of nothing?" - are all explored and more! Di Filippo takes these concepts and molds them into entire worlds.
Science fiction can often be annoyingly unimaginative - with the whole realm of possibility to play with writers often don't think very far past their own experiences. Di Filippo turns this on it's head - his character, Paul, makes some very mundane choices with his yo-yo, but Di Filippo manages to expand each one into places that you have never even thought of.
If you love high-concept science fiction then this book is for you. It'll take you through all 10 dimensions and back again! ...more
This is the sort of book that you want to force your friends to read when you have finished it so you have someone to discuss it with. It is a hard plThis is the sort of book that you want to force your friends to read when you have finished it so you have someone to discuss it with. It is a hard plot of sell to other people - Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist who was at the bombing of Dresden in WWII becomes "unstuck" in time and is abducted by aliens. But it isn't really about that - it is about war, death and being human.
The story flits back and forth through different times in Billy's life as he (and Kurt Vonnegut) try to come to terms with what they saw in Dresden. The bombing itself is given little in the way of detail - because Vonnegut was in an underground shelter, so therefore is Billy. We do see the aftermath though - the rubble, burnt bodies, people cooked in underground shelters...and it is all described almost passively. The same mantra repeats throughout the book upon someone or something dying - so it goes.
But make no mistake, this is an anti-war novel. Soldiers are young, fighting for forces that don't really care about them. It is full of dark humour and poignant moments but there are no moments of war bravado, no heroes. As Billy says about the bombing: "Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does." And that is true, but those that have seen such awful things have to go on living afterwards and come to terms with what they have seen - and that is really what the book is about.
We can only hope to have more nice moments to exist in than we do bad ones. As Vonnegut says "There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre." So it goes.
I was really disappointed by this. Most of the characters are extremely irritating, with the exception of Bascule who is endearing and funny.
The probI was really disappointed by this. Most of the characters are extremely irritating, with the exception of Bascule who is endearing and funny.
The problem was that the book read like the first draft of a novel that was never finished. I'm quite sure that Mr. Banks knew exactly what was going on but didn't always bother to inform his readers. A lot of the things that happened just didn't have any explanation to them - or at least an explanation that I personally didn't find satisfying. And then, abruptly, the book ends! And you're left with a feeling of "Oh, I guess that's that then" - pity because it had some truly fascinating ideas that just never seemed to be fully explored. ...more
An entertaining book but also something of a struggle to read, mainly because it is about 500 pages longer than it needs to be. It has some charming cAn entertaining book but also something of a struggle to read, mainly because it is about 500 pages longer than it needs to be. It has some charming characters who are genuinely interesting but the only action they really get is running from one danger to the next. Chase sequences can go on for pages and pages and become very tedious, especially since they very rarely end with the character having more information than they started out with. And they all get caught and face imminent death about 10 times each - any sense of tension in these situations is eventually lost because they are so numerous. You would think that the "evil cabal" the main characters are fighting against would just shoot them in the head after they continue to interrupt proceedings. But no, the cabal continually leave the job to someone else and act surprised when the main characters pop back up later on.
The trouble with this book isn't the plot or the characters or the ideas. They are all good. The trouble is that none of them are really used. The conspiracy doesn't amount to much of anything, it is never explained what exactly the "process" or the glass books are and no one learns much of anything about each other or themselves. Many, many characters are introduced to make things seem complicated but it is really all surface. Ultimately, nothing really happens. Yes, the characters go through a lot - they are continually running down streets, jumping onto trains, getting lost in mansions and being poisoned, knocked out and held prisoner - but they never gain a thing from their efforts. Perhaps this is because the author is withholding information for the sequel? But without any sort of payoff at all it just feels like you've read 700 pages of empty chasing.
It's a shame really because there is a lot of good ideas in here. They are just obscured beneath hundreds of pages of padding....more
Rucker's ideas are great...well thought out, imaginative and compelling. Over the course of the 4 books Rucker tells a story of technology rushing forRucker's ideas are great...well thought out, imaginative and compelling. Over the course of the 4 books Rucker tells a story of technology rushing forward and pushing at the intellectual event horizon. Change happens fast and becomes more fantastic and more removed from human hands as the novels go on. It is a bit of a slow start in the first and second books but by the third I was hooked and in the fourth I was anticipating the singularity. I don't want to give away spoilers for the book so I won't go into detail but it felt almost as if Rucker lost his nerve at the end of the fourth book and ended on a whimper. Either that or perhaps he had written himself into a corner and couldn't imagine a way out. It was a shame because the four novels felt like they were leading up to a point that never happened. I felt disappointed when I had finished and it soured my enjoyment of the work somewhat.
Unfortunately, as great as Rucker's ideas are his characters leave a lot to be desired. Rucker seems to be very cynical about humans (and by extension...artificial and alien personalities). His characters are selfish, short-sighted and consistently see other beings as objects or means to an end. They exist in a cloud of sex and drugs and care very little for anyone other than themselves. It is hard to tell if Rucker writes this way because he simply believes that intelligent beings can never rise above base needs and emotions or if he thought they would be more interesting characters through which to tell his story. Either way, a bit of variety would have been nice, or some respite in the shape of a character with an ounce of nobility or thought. Personally, I felt it was harder to care about what happended when everyone was so damned unlikeable.
Rucker's ideas about technology, evolution and change are very astute and imaginative. They are the core of The Ware Tetralogy. If you are a big fan of cyberpunk and science fiction I would recommend this book for that alone. If not, I'd give it a miss. ...more
Completely average, run-of-the-mill fantasy novel with typical "oh no! what have got myself into!!!" protaganist. Enjoyable read, but ultimately forgeCompletely average, run-of-the-mill fantasy novel with typical "oh no! what have got myself into!!!" protaganist. Enjoyable read, but ultimately forgettable. Probably a good book to take on holiday if fantasy is your thing but you don't want to tax yourself too much....more