Mara's Reviews > The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
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's review
Sep 20, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, literary_sci-fi, m_for_mature
Recommended for: sci fi fans, politicos, anarchists, anyone who likes to ridicule anarchists

I wanted to post an Ursula K. Le Guin book and had settled on the Wizard of Earthsea, which of course is her fantasy classic, but as much as I love that book and the ones that follow it--and I do love them, very much--I think this is the more interesting and challenging book. Exploring her view of a functioning semi-utopian anarchist society (I say semi because can anything really be utopian when people have to live so very poorly?), Le Guin manages to make a political experiment live and breathe, though the character manipulation necessary to do it becomes a little more obvious in the second half of the book.

But whatever the book's lofty notions, it is less about society at large than morality of a single man, Shevek, who goes from his anarchist desert back to the capitalist world his people once fled and Le Guin's depiction of that world is not unsympathetic. She manages to make it appear fatuous, glamorous, unsettling, and comfortable at the same time, which seems right on the mark for me, an unabashed capitalist myself. Shevek is a far more complicated character than you will find in almost any novel with the same grand political message--Le Guin never hammers her ideas, but lets them flow from her characters, both in words and emotions. Still, because she is unfailingly honest, her world begins to break down near the end on her characters inability to maintain its idealism--which seems unintentional on her part, just a natural consequence of setting certain ideas in real motion.

A scene in which Shevek becomes trapped in a political protest turned hammerfall by the government is wrenching and will make the reader want to march on something, even if they can't be sure what. This book won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, deservedly.

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