I decided to read The Dispossessed after viewing the ReadMOre interview with the author Ursula Le Guin and former Center for the Book board president, Mark Tiedemann. Never being a real “sci-fi nerd”, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading this book, but after listening to Le Guin discuss the work, I realized that hers is a great mind and certainly one worthy of my small attention. The Dispossessed is not so much science fiction as it is a study of human relationships and socio-political issues. Although the main character in this novel travels through space between planets, the story is not of the grandeur of the traveling ships (we barely get a glimpse of that) or of bizarre creatures encountered on his travels, but of his inner struggle to remain loyal to his planet and its ideals, while being recognized for his achievements in the other world. This is the story of a temporal physicist, Shevek, living on the anarchistic, utopian planet of Annares, a colony of Urras. In his mathematical research, Shevek has created a formula for a faster-than-light communications device, allowing instantaneous, free communication between all worlds. While there may be no formal ownership or formal authority on Annares, it becomes clear that power structures do exist and Shevek’s ideas are kept unpublished by his fellow physicists. However, Shevek’s ideas are intriguing to the capitalists on the planet Urras and he is invited to go there as an honored guest of the state, and chooses to go, in spite of how it reflects upon his status in his own world. Contrasting a capitalistic society filled with the excesses of the rich and the poverty of the destitute against a society where all men have equal wealth and share in the common labors is a task in itself. Le Guin goes beyond this contrast to show us the underlying corruption in each of the worlds, including the seemingly virtuous society in which all men are, on the surface equal, but in reality corruption and the suppression of art and ideas exist. Tying all of this together is a compelling story of human relationships, the pursuit of idealism, and conflict between worlds. There are no little green men in this tale-just wonderful characters, skillfully drawn. View the video on the ReadMOre website and see if your interest is piqued, as well.
Paperback, 318 pages