Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin

Because I work in a rock magazine, my officemates were screaming "anarchy, anarchy!" when they caught me reading this book. The Dispossessed is one of the books in the Gollancz SF collection and it certainly deserves its place. The setting takes place on two planets, one apparently seeming to be utopian and the other its complete opposite. Our protagonist hails from the benevolent planet but he soon discovers that he has no place in either. It's a science-fiction tale with a definite human dimension to it, one that calls to the reader. It has always amazed me how le Guin can write something as readable as A Wizard of Earthsea and also write something as complex as Left Hand of Darkness. This book belongs more to the latter category, and beginning readers might find it a difficult read, especially factoring in that the characters in the book have different norms and mores from us. An interesting technique le Guin uses in the novel is the juxtaposition of the past and present and while we witness the events that transpire to the main character, it keeps the reader wondering what tragedy befalls him until the very end. Definitely a good but difficult read.

Rating: 4/5.


Anonymous said...

I first read this book when I was 14 and let me tell you, I didn't understand what the hell was going on. But... I read it again when I was 18 for college, and it made so much more sense. It really is a difficult book and looking back, not one I'd recommend to your average 14 year old. I know I didn't have the world experience and knowledge to process what was really going on in the book then.

Anonymous said...

Read Le Guin's The Dispossessed back in high school. I've been reading it again quite a lot of times since then. What interested me is the way Le Guin blended sharp social commentary into the literary science fiction genre.

The Dispossessed not only highlighted the ills of the existing world. The planet Urras, after all, was a thinly disguised pastiche of our very own world's socio-economic and political conditions and divisions during the Cold War. Le Guin also presented an alternative to the established way of organizing human society.

How a socialist society of the anarchist type can work and what pitfalls can befall it is adroitly imagined in The Dispossessed.

I give it a five out of five.