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The Dispossessed

(Hainish Cycle)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  102,856 ratings  ·  6,798 reviews
Librarian note: Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780061054884.

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 lif
Paperback, 387 pages
Published October 20th 1994 by Harper Voyager (first published May 1974)
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Maggie The philosophical ideas in this book are as resounding now as ever - if you've ever dabbled in political philosophy or comparative theology, Le Guin d…moreThe philosophical ideas in this book are as resounding now as ever - if you've ever dabbled in political philosophy or comparative theology, Le Guin does a fantastic job of weaving bits and pieces from capitalism/socialism/communism, age-old Western/Eastern contrasts, and class structure/conflict. Given today's disparaging levels of inequality and political polarity, this book is very on-point in its subtle criticisms of tribalism. (less)
Michael Murray No they are quite distinct books. They are just set in the same "universe" with races and planets having the same names. …moreNo they are quite distinct books. They are just set in the same "universe" with races and planets having the same names. (less)

Community Reviews

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Start your review of The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #6)
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 here.

So, what is it she's saying that's so important? I've read the book several times since I first came
Joe S
Nov 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Oh, Ursula. No longer will I love you in a vaguely ashamed manner, skulking through chesty-women-blow-shit-up-also-monster! book covers in the sci-fi/fantasy aisles with a moderate velocity as though I am actually trying to find Civil War biographies but am amusingly lost amongst all these shelves, that's so like me, need a GPS for Borders. Today, I will begin loving you publicly, proudly, for you are the Anti-Ayn Rand. You do not skullf**k Ayn Rand and make her your bitch, no, too easy. You tak ...more
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are some books that even with my untrained, unskilled and inexperienced eye can detect and confirm are true works of art, mastery in literature.

Other works, perhaps less skillfully written or not as masterfully created, still strike a chord within me and I can grasp the vision and voice of the author as if we were friends, as if we shared a thought. It is truly rare when I can see that a book is both a work of art and that also touches me in a way that leaves a mark on my soul, perhaps ev
mark monday
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why America Is Full of Toxic Bullshit and Why Ambiguous Utopias Need to Check Themselves Before They Wreck Themselves Going Down the Same Fucked-Up Path
by Ursula K. Le Guin.

this excellent novel-cum-political treatise-cum-extended metaphor for the States lays its thesis out in parallel narratives. in the present day (far, far, far in the future), heroically thoughtful protagonist Shevek visits the thinly-veiled States of the nation A-Io on the planet Urras in order to both work on his Theory of
Some books really make me think long and hard about life. This was one of them. I first inhaled it on a transatlantic flight a decade ago and felt that Le Guin, as usual, made my brain run on higher speed than it typically does. I was too intimidated for words back then, but I’ll try now, after a second, slower read spanning a couple of weeks, with time for brain to stop and think and really appreciate what I read.
“It’s always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and se
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
When I started this novel I was a little worried because the prose seemed clunky and I was having a hard time settling into the novel. After a few pages that all changed, either I adjusted to her writing style or the writing smoothed out. If you experience this, hang in there, it is well worth sticking with this book.


I see some reviewers think of The Dispossessed as an anti-Ayn Rand book. I didn't come away with that impression at all. I thought LeGuin did an excellent job of showing the fal
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
You question a lot of things when you read this book. Loyalty, freedom, desire to own, work, family concept .... I think the author has written a great book.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthias by: Manny
Shelves: favorites, my-reviews
More than two months have passed since I've closed this book. While my traditional reviewing habit was one of immediately rushing to the closest laptop after reading the last line and sharing my excitement or the lack thereof in some hopefully original way, I felt a need to really let Le Guin's words sink fully into my mind and make them my own. (Actually, I've mostly just been very lazy in the reviewing department lately, but "letting words sink in" just sounds a little better.) But when it com ...more
Sean Barrs
“My world, my Earth, is a ruin. A planet spoiled by the human species. We multiplied and gobbled and fought until there was nothing left, and then we died. We controlled neither appetite nor violence; we did not adapt. We destroyed ourselves. But we destroyed ourselves first. There are no forests left on my Earth.”

The Dispossessed is a phenomenal novel and there are many important aspects of it that warrant a thorough discussion; however, the above quote really stood out to me and will becom
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
4, maybe 4.5 stars. This classic SF novel kept me glued to my chair the whole time I was reading it. Granted, I was on a cross-country airplane flight from Washington DC to Utah, but still!

It's very thought-provoking SF, set in the same universe as Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, but even more politically inclined. Almost 200 years earlier, a group of rebels left a highly capitalistic society on the planet Urras, to form their more utopian government on the moon Annares. Now a man named Sh
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, aere-perennius
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed.


Ursula K. Le Guin's 'The Dispossessed' represents the high orbit of what SF can do. Science Fiction is best, most lasting, most literate, when it is using its conventional form(s) to explore not space but us. When the vehicle of SF is used to ask big questions that are easier bent with binary planets, with grand theories of time and space, etc., we are able to
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Eric by: Manny Citron
This discourse on dystopias won Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and National Book awards, and almost every single one of my Goodreads friends that has read it has it tagged with a 4 or 5 star rating. So clearly, the problem here is with me, because I really hated this book -- and it isn't because this book is dated or aged poorly, because the Cold War era slant of this book plays perfectly to a modern audience considering the current state of Russian-U.S. relations.

I'm giving it two stars b
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books if not THE favorite and on third read I like it even more since I notice details I haven't first time around. I feel I should say something about the book but I'm not sure I can do this book justice. Review hopefully might come at some point. ...more
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to notgettingenough by: Manny
Shelves: science-fiction
Thoughts on The Dispossessed

Of the various layers of content in The Dispossessed, the most obvious is the socio-political: capitalism vs. anarchistic-communism. The claim often made is that, even though her heart is with the latter, she nonetheless treats the two structures impartially. The claim or presumption is to be found in the reviews of fantasy/science fiction devotees, those with a particular interest in anarchism and, I suspect, also those who simply read it with an uncritical eye.

I don
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So this was basically the literary event of the year for me and I’m completely and utterly smitten with this novel. And a big review is definitely coming once we meet for book club on this one. But I need to finish the Simone Weil essays I’ve been reading alongside and get a better knowledge of Taoist socialism before writing. But I’d give this book all the stars in the cosmos if Goodreads would let me. ...more
The first time I read this book back in the early nineties, I would have given it a four star rating because I was slightly annoyed with the prose and the steadily boring pace where nothing really big happens (mostly) except a general living of a life. This is despite our following a very interesting character escaping his pragmatic moon to gift his very advanced physics that would lead to not only an ansible for faster-than-light communications but also faster-than-light travel.

The world-buildi
As a semi-retired actor, there are many literary characters I'd love to play, and for all kinds of reasons. Cardinal Richelieu and D'Artagnan spring immediately to mind, but there are countless others: Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin (Perdido Street Station), Oedipus, Holmes or Watson (I'd take either), Captain Jack Aubrey (I'd rather Stephen Maturin, but I look like Jack), Heathcliff, Lady Macbeth (yep, I meant her), Lady Bracknell (nee Brancaster), Manfred, Indiana Jones. But none of them are people ...more
We humans really fail at the system level, don't we?

Try as we might to make a fair collective of independent individuals, we invariably end up crushing those individuals in the process of distributing our homemade booty of choice according to increasingly corrupt rules and guidelines that keep changing in favour of those who happen to have the power to write them down.

The Dispossessed are everywhere. That they dispossess in their specific lives depends on the quirky path of history. It never s
J.L.   Sutton
May 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed was a difficult book for me to review. On the one hand, I like the ideas Le Guin explores and the fact that she doesn't take shortcuts. Her depictions of utopia, for instance, are interesting and thought provoking, but at the same time they're obviously flawed. That's not a surprise. Still, it's frustrating for the reader that the main character, Shevek, doesn't see those flaws. Even though it's probably perfectly natural for people in a given cultural context n ...more
picoas picoas
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, favorites
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Anarres vs. Urras - Ambiguous Walls: “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin Published 1994.
There was a wall. It did not look important…But the idea was real…Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon the which side of it you were on”.
In “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin
"Call me Shevek. Some years ago, never mind how many, I set out to be the tedious, most hypocritic
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Tara by: Junta
I’ve gotta admit, I was initially a little wary of The Dispossessed. I was worried that it might prove to be one of those godawful books whose sole purpose in life is to peddle insipidly idealistic ideology. The derisive cynic in me was prepared for the worst, ready to swoop in with some aggressively bratty eye-rolling and loud, obnoxious sighing at the first sign of trouble. I mean, is there anything worse than those agenda-pushing heaps of garbage that masquerade as literature? Seriously, who ...more
Simona B
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
"He has power over you. Where does he get it from? Not from vested authority, there isn't any. Not from intellectual excellence, he hasn't any. He gets it from the innate cowardice of the average human mind. Public opinion! That's the power structure he's part of, and knows how to use."

I have decided this won't be a proper review, but rather a short, focused comment.

The Dispossessed is one of those books written not to make you lose yourself in the story, but to make you yourself in your thought
Megan Baxter
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Human nature tends towards, not entropy, but bureaucracy.

I fear my review might focus more on Anarres and less on Urras, as it was the Anarrian sections that interested me more, the attempts to sustain (founding was the easy part) an anarcho-syndicalist society over a long period of time. For Urras, I thought that Urras was painted in clear terms, and avoided a polemic, although it did have very pointed things to say about class, and war, and conscription, and property, and the gendering thereof
Updated review after a re-read in November 2019.


“Change is freedom, change is life."

"It's always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don't make changes, don't risk disapproval, don't upset your syndics. It's always easiest to let yourself be governed."

"There's a point, around age twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities."

"Those who build walls are their own prisoner
So good. Maybe I'll write a review when I manage to find some free time. ...more
One of the things that always comes to my mind when reading this novel (yes, I’ve read it several times) is this feeling that while Anarres does represent something that feels like a utopian future, it’s a utopia/dystopia of a different kind, one that feels the closets to a future that may work for everyone.

Anarres is a small moon, colonized by humans from the planet Urras. For centuries, Urra’s government contained and served only the wealthy. And the wealthy loathe the poor. So, by ensuring th
Fulfillment, Shevek thought, is a function of time. The search for pleasure is circular, repetitive, atemporal. The variety seeking of the spectator, the thrill hunter, the sexually promiscuous, always ends in the same place. It has an end. It comes to the end and has to start over. It is not a journey and return, but a closed cycle, a locked room, a cell.

Outside the locked room is the landscape of time, in which the spirit may, with luck and courage, construct the fragile, makeshift, improba
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Dispossessed: Not simply an anarchist utopia/capitalist dystopia
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
The Dispossessed is a perfectly achieved thought experiment, perhaps Ursula K. Le Guin’s greatest work, but there is little I can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently, forcefully, thoroughly, or knowledgeably by other reviewers. It transcends the genre as a Novel of Ideas. It explores with great intelligence anarchism-socialism vs capitalism; freedom/slavery in terms of politics, econo
Peter Boyle
Nov 25, 2016 rated it liked it
My hero David Mitchell frequently mentions The Dispossessed as one of his favourite books, and it is regularly described as one of the most significant sci-fi novels of all time. So I just HAD to see what all the fuss was about.

The story revolves around two distant planets, Urras and Annares. Years ago a rebellion brewed on Urras and in order to avoid conflict, the anarchists left to start a new life on Annares. Urras is a bountiful place with a capitalist, patriarchal society, whereas Annares i
Contentment generally doesn’t compel writers to their greatest work. Historian Barbara Tuchman mentions this in one of her books. I think it’s true for fiction, too. The happiness of others— making babies, seeing friends, tying one on, etc— is a bore. Even if it’s happening a million years in the future on two adjacent planets 20 light years away. The writing however is far better than the content, which is why I give it 3 stars. There can be no question that here at least Le Guin has produced e ...more
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

Hainish Cycle (9 books)
  • Rocannon's World (Hainish Cycle, #1)
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle, #2)
  • City of Illusions (Hainish Cycle, #3)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)
  • The Word for World Is Forest (Hainish Cycle, #5)
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness (Hainish Cycle, #7)
  • The Telling (Hainish Cycle, #8)
  • The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (Hainish Cycle, #9)

Articles featuring this book

Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are...
265 likes · 102 comments
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” 887 likes
“It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.” 525 likes
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