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The Dispossessed [Mass Market Paperback]

Ursula K. Le Guin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1975
The ideas of Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the anarchist world of Anarres are being stifled by jealous colleagues. So he goes to the hell-planet Urras, seeking a different kind of freedom - and finds himself embroiled in deadly intrigue and bloody revoulution.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of more than one hundred short stories, two collections of essays, four volumes of poetry, and nineteen novels. Her best-known fantasy works, the Earthsea books, have sold millions of copies in America and England, and have been translated into sixteen languages. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, is considered epochmaking in the field because of its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity.

Three of Le Guin's books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and among the many honors her writing has received are the National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, the Kafka Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Harold D. Vursell Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and compelling Sept. 16 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Quick -- name three SF literary portraits of functional societies founded on principles of anarchism.
I come up with Eric Frank Russell's Gands in _The Great Explosion_ (" . . . And Then There Were None"), Robert A. Heinlein's Loonies in _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_, and Ursula K. Le Guin's Anarresti in _The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia_.
Oh, there are a handful of others, notably James Hogan's _Voyage from Yesteryear_ (which was itself strongly influenced by Russell). But most of the rest are thinly disguised libertarian propaganda without a great deal of literary merit (though your mileage may vary).
Of these three, Le Guin's is in some ways the most compelling. In part that's because she's just such a fine writer. But it's also because she's probably the _least_ "ideological" of all the SF writers who have ever tackled this subject.
On Le Guin's somewhat Taoistic approach, each of the contrasting societies contains the seeds of the other, and she lets the reader see both their "good" and "bad" points. She clearly likes the Anarresti society (and on the whole it comes off rather better than its Urrasti foil). But she doesn't hesitate to show the reader some of its critically important drawbacks. Its childrearing practices, for example, recall Ira Levin's _This Perfect Day_, and its treatment of original thinkers (and their "egoizing") even recalls Ayn Rand's tub-thumpingly propagandistic _Anthem_.
In general, then, Le Guin is pretty well immune to the usual salvation-by-ideology claptrap. And as her subtitle suggests, her utopia really _is_ ambiguous. For her, people aren't "saved" by adopting the correct philosophical position or social principles.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, Inspiring, Beautiful Oct. 21 2003
By J.W.K
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Whether or not THE DISPOSSESED passes as good sci-fi, I know not. I am not very knowledgeable of what SF fans look for in a book. As a novel, and as a philosophical exploration of authoritarianism, anarchism, capitalism, communism, revolution and utopianism -- this book is first-rate. The questions Le Guin grapples with here are by no means simple. Even great philosophers, like Marx and Bakunin, had difficultly imagining what an ACTUAL society would look like without bosses and owners. But through the gripping tale of an anarchist caught between two fundamentally different worlds, Le Guin seeks answers to many of the questions these philosophers left untouched. How would an anarchist society function? What would it take as its fundamental principles? What problems would that society have? What would a "propertarian" capitalist society appear from the perspective of an anarchist? Without offering any quick or final answers, Le Guin sheds light on these issues and beckons the reader to imagine the possibility of another world. After all, the evolution of culture here on planet earth was why Le Guin wrote this book in the first place. Inspiring, moving and transformative, this book was a pleasure. Thank you, Ursula. You have successfully removed another brick from the wall.
Note: The Perrenial Classics edition of this book (not this edition) is much more sturdy and readable, if a little more pricy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, Inspiring, Beautiful Oct. 21 2003
By J.W.K
Format:Paperback
Whether or not THE DISPOSSESED passes as good sci-fi, I know not. I am not very knowledgeable of what SF fans look for in a book. As a novel, and as a philosophical exploration of authoritarianism, anarchism, capitalism, communism, revolution and utopianism -- this book is first-rate. The questions Le Guin grapples with here are by no means simple. Even great philosophers, like Marx and Bakunin, had difficultly imagining what an ACTUAL society would look like without bosses and owners. But through the gripping tale of an anarchist caught between two fundamentally different worlds, Le Guin seeks answers to many of the questions these philosophers left untouched. How would an anarchist society function? What would it take as its fundamental principles? What problems would that society have? What would a "propertarian" capitalist society appear from the perspective of an anarchist? Without offering any quick or final answers, Le Guin sheds light on these issues and beckons the reader to imagine the possibility of another world. After all, the evolution of culture here on planet earth was why Le Guin wrote this book in the first place. Inspiring, moving and transformative, this book was a pleasure. Thank you, Ursula. You have successfully removed another brick from the wall.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eternal Revolution? April 19 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Shevek is a physicist from a world of anarchists who finds the only way to spread his revolutionary ideas of temporal physics is to visit the world who exiled his culture nearly 200 years ago. In this act and in those leading to and from it, he brings a reexamination of the revolutionary anarchy of the desolate moon Anarres as well as casts a gaze on the stratified capitalist world of Urras.
Set in the same universe of LeGuin's other space stories, _The_Dispossessed_ critiques the capitalism of late 20th century Western culture, with its proxy wars and gender inequities, the failings of idealized communist societies which succumb to human drives for power through buereacracy, as well as the drive in both to maintain a status quo.
In addition, Shevek's struggle to unify linear and circular views of temporal physics parallels Einstein's (or Ainsetain's (sic))and modern physics struggles to unify general relativity with quantum mechanics. This, along with insights into the perils of dual career families and academic politics round out the tale.
Shevek, is perhaps the only fully realized character and he serves as the readers eyes onto the two Cetian societies and thus the aforementioned critique of our own. So, while I did identify and feel empathy for Shevek, it was the social descriptions and plot which kept me from putting the book down more than once to sleep, over the course of 24 hours.
Are you possessed by your possessions? by your ideas?
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Book is definitely worth reading
Great service, book arrived super fast. Great book, goes a little slow but not so slow it is makes it unpleasant to read. Read more
Published 6 months ago by diana meister
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Among the Masterpieces of Science Fiction Literature Courtesy of...
One of the most overtly political science fiction novels - and one certainly deserving of the term "speculative fiction" - ever published, "The Dispossessed" remains Ursula K. Read more
Published on July 19 2012 by John Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just utopian sci-fi
The Dispossessed is one of my favourite books - one that almost always gets re-read when I pick it up just by accident. Ursula K. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2004 by Andrew Thomson
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Utopian Fiction
There is a planet called Urras. To earthling readers in 1974 it is remarkably familiar, dominated politically by the highly centralized communist state of Thu and the dynamic... Read more
Published on March 7 2004 by snalen
1.0 out of 5 stars Move Over Ayn Rand
LeGuin does for anarchosyndicalism what Ayn Rand attempts to do for capitalism. The difference? LeGuin succeeds. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by Robert J. Kolker
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book that Changed Everything ...
There are three groups of people in the world: those whose favorite LeGuin book is THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS; those whose favorite LeGuin book is THE DISPOSSESSED; and ... Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003 by Chris Moriarty, author of SPIN STATE (Bantam 2003)
5.0 out of 5 stars Ursula's Utopia
I read this book years ago and have re-read it many times. It and Left Hand of Darkness are my favorite novels by LeGuin. Both books start with a what-if premise. Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2003 by J. Badger
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Le Guin's Best
This book ranks high in my top ten list, and actually well above the Left Hand of Darkness. It's characters are complex and interesting and the political commentary is insightful. Read more
Published on July 22 2003 by Sarah Conklin
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid science fiction novel
I recommend "The Dispossessed" because it is a good example of how to write a philosophical novel. The story deals with the planet Urras, a modernist technological society, and... Read more
Published on June 6 2003 by not4prophet
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