The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed

An Ambiguous Utopia

Book - 1974
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Shevek, a brilliant physicist, attempts to reunite two planets cut off from each other by centuries of distrust.
Publisher: New York : Harper & Row, ©1974
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060125639
Characteristics: 341 pages : maps ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Dispossessed, a novel

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Jan 10, 2019

Interesting book. I probably should have read it more closely. I was waiting for a big bang ending but it never came. I would recommend this book still.

WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

This is my favorite science fiction novel of all time (my signed paperback is one of my most prized possessions) and it won late author Ursula K. Le Guin (a long-time resident of Portland, Oregon) both the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction. Don’t let the initial slow pacing or non-linear chronology deter you---this book is packed with great characters and thought-provoking ideas. I’d also argue that the subtitle --An ambiguous utopia--- is as meaningful as the title.

Jun 30, 2018

Le Guin presents a world built on hope and the problems that could arise from that in the The Dispossessed. If doesn't seem like a super exciting tag line that's because it isn't. It will probably read really dry for those who don't identify with personally with Anarchism. That said if you stick with it, it will turn out to be a really rewarding immersive piece of speculative science fiction, that asks what utopia actually looks like, and what would happen to individual discontent within that society. The book has a demysitifying that is really refreshing, and makes utopia seem not only plausible but also normative and potentially boring.

May 18, 2018

If you do not like to think, do not like to be enthralled and you pale at the sight of witty, pithy prose, then you will not like The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.
You can not just read The Dispossessed. You read it. You put it down, usually only after a page. And you think, think about human nature, the nature of the universe, philosophy of thought, maths, physics, what IS the best stroke for swimming long distance. You’re about to pick it up again and realize half an hour has gone by while your mind has chewed on the words you’ve just read. You pick it up again. Read only two paragraphs before having to put it down .. again.
I loved how just about every page made some interesting comment on society. How it could be. How it is right now. She comments on pretty much every aspect: from the ethics of current prison systems to romantic love. She gets you thinking of what would make a society a utopia. I really liked the fact that university classes could be orchestrated by student demand, teacher initiative or both. And the folks in the utopia are appalled by the notion of examination being a pattern of, “cramming in information and disgorging it”, and that such a system would be a, “deterrent to the natural wish to learn”. It’s a society built for thought, free exchange of ideas, “intellectual solidarity”, the antithesis of intellectual property, of knowledge freely shared. Can you imagine scientists, artists, any profession from all over the world having that kind of freedom?? “They argued because they liked argument, liked the swift run of the unfettered mind along paths of possibility, liked to question what was not questioned.” I love how this isn’t about winning an argument, like what seems to be the purpose of so many arguments in our world. It is rather about the hashing out of something we want to understand better and that can be achieved through discourse. I also like this method of trying to understand a concept because it’s a reflection of each individual’s knowledge, their individual synthesis of all previous data, and their personal experience.
It did make me sad in several places. I mean how could a book that questions some of the more hideous aspects of society not make one sad. Like does a utopia have to be constrained by some extreme circumstance (in this case living in an extremely austere environment on a barely habitable world) in order for humans to live a life of brotherhood and an innate sense of putting others before yourself, to not “egoize”. It’s nice to see someone asking the same questions I have asked myself.
One last thing. The full title is The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. I found out that another writer, Sam Delany, has a book called Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia. When asked about this similarity between the two titles Delany, while talking about Le Guin’s more excellent writing points, also criticized her for a fairly heteronormative book that was supposed to be about inclusion and the robustness of diversity, yet only has one character that is not straight who’s kind of sad and lonely and a very minor character. However, Delany’s book explores that diversity further. He has a solid point, but I still think that Le Guin was ahead of her time in all other respects. The Dispossessed is written in the mid 70s and a lot of those ideas she thought of as utopian are ones we are still trying to catch up with. That being said, sounds like Triton takes it one step further. He didn’t set out to write it as a response to her work. I read an interview where he said he’d finished the first draft before picking up The Dispossessed, but after reading it there were a few tweaks to make it a dialogue with Le Guin. Tweaks like adding the subtitle ‘An Ambiguous Heterotopia’.

Mar 17, 2018

This is one of the best poli-sci-fi books I've ever read. Not a shoot-em-up or a car chase in space, hoping for movie fame, this is a book for readers. It revived the long-ago feel of discovering Ray Bradbury. Rich in detail, fully developed characters...what more can I say about highly I can recommend this novel?

Oct 26, 2017

part of a series

JCLEmilyD Aug 30, 2017

This scifi is about two planets with drastically different cultures and societies. Shevek travels from his world Anarres to Urras, the first traveler since the colonization of Anarres. Shevek is trying to find his utopia, but it isn't where he thinks it is. Excellent scifi read.

Apr 25, 2017

Although first published in 1974, this is a book relevant in 2017. Wrapped in science-fiction, this novel presents a capitalist and an anarchist/communist world, with the problems of each. Like the physicist's theory of time, the chapters alternate between the two worlds. Recommended.

Mar 11, 2017

I loved this book. Years ago I bought her Left Hand of Darkness and read a few times.
The Dispossessed fascinates me. The science is good; I'm only an amateur physicist but Shevek's ideas hang together well so I enjoyed the philosophy and physics. Incidently faster than light travel is theoretically possible, we just don't know yet how to engineer it. The sociology of Anarres is fascinating and feasible. Our capitalist system is way past it's sell-by date and not working for an increasing majority. Some Anarres ideas are reflected in our increasing dependence on volunteers, often retired people. The guaranteed basic income idea where we would all have enough not to starve without food banks reflects the domicile and commons provision of Anarres - nobody eats while another starves. Highly recommend this book.

Oct 01, 2016

I love the cover art! This book is more philosophy & sociology than sci fi, but I did like the sci fi portions about space travel, encountering alien cultures, etc. The action moves slowly, but the end is exciting, so it's worth it to stick it out and finish the book.

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Jan 18, 2015

...the competition for scholarships was stiffer every year, proving the essential democracy of the institution..."You put another lock on the door and call it democracy."

Aug 25, 2014

"Change is freedom, change is life."


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