Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: Dispossessed

I've had a pretty good Fall when it comes to books. Seems like I just kept tripping on mind blowing books.

So I've decided to give my review of each of them!

Starting with Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed.

The premise for the novel is simple, two civilizations orbiting each other, with distinct cultures: Urras is hyper capitalist with many but unevenly distributed resources, and Anarres which was founded on Urras's moon after an anarchist rebellion two hundred years previous and has not/barely enough resources distributed equally/as needed by a computer system. These two wolds have by design, had minimal contact in the past 200 years.

The Dispossessed is the story of Shevek, an intelligently disgruntled Anarresti physicist who travels to Urras.

The story is told in non-chronological order, switching between worlds every chapter. The first two chapters are slightly disorienting in this regard, but this element is perfect because it simulates Shevek's disorientation of culture shock.

While two seemingly polar opposite societies are represented, Le Guin masterfully does not come down on the side of either and instead uses individual characters to expose the problematic elements within both societies.

The sophistication of thought and emotion in this book is sharply philosophical and is as painfully relevant now as the year it was first written (1974). The complexity of societies is portrayed seamlessly through the main character's investigation of character's motives.

I wish that I could go back in time and hand this book to my fifteen year old self. It gave me all the complexity and richness I wanted from and subsequently failed to pry out of Atlas Shrugged.

This story is an appropriately critical approach to idealized societies. Through the voice of Shevek, Le Guin managers to balance care for the individual freedoms of creation/destruction with the needs of humans as a cooperative society.

This book is absolute magic for anyone who consistently feels like an outsider because they refuse to settle for a belonging that comes at too high a cost. This book is for people who are suspicious of both luxury and austerity and know that danger lies in clinging to closely to any ideology.
I know it's premature but I would already classify this book as deeply influential for me. There was so much rich thought surrounding ownership, belonging, suffering, and oppression that I will be chewing on it for years.

The Dues Ex at the end was a little disappointing, but not at all unexpected in a book I know to be part of a series. I look forward to reading more of the Hainish Cycle (maybe this time I'll get past chapter 3 of The Left Hand of Darkness).

Next up on my review list is Whipping Girl! Stay tuned!

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