In a time when I was burning through a book every three days, this one took a month to read. And deservedly so. The Dispossessed is not a “fun” book. It is a work of art, a brilliant display of social science fiction.
Every sentence is crafted so perfectly with Le Guin’s idea of morality in a fictional anarchy-communist utopia (which is then compared to a technocratic capitalist world). The Dispossessed reflects upon both a diversity and complexity of themes around science, politics, religion, time, human nature, yadayadaya. It’s not all in your face, and pokes you gently in as you follow Shevek’s journey through the utopian worlds.
- If you have one scifi book to read, I wouldn’t read this to start off. Maybe I’d suggest Three Body Problem, Old Man’s War, or Snow Crash which are just as thought-provoking but much more fun.
Finally, there are several things to watch out for.
- Commenters point out that Le Guin doesn’t really give a fair fight to capitalism and makes them look like quite a snobby, suspicious bunch.
- Also, it still has some patriarchal overtones
In the end, its the quotes that I keep coming back to again and again. They are meaningful in their own right, but even more so in the context of The Dispossessed.
“Of course it’s right to cure diseases, to prevent hunger and injustice, as the social organism does. But no society can change the nature of existence. We can’t prevent suffering. This pain and that pain, yes, but not Pain.”
…sexual privacy was freely available and socially expected; and beyond that privacy was not functional. It was excess, waste.
I confess to being proud of you. That’s strange, isn’t it? Unreasonable. Propertarian, even. As if you were something that belonged to me!
To break a promise is to deny the reality of the past; therefore it is to deny the hope of a real future.
“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.”
Intellectuals are always being led astray, because they think about irrelevant things like time and space and reality, things that have nothing to do with real life, so they are easily fooled by wicked deviationists.
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
Wasn’t all this extravagant foliage mere excess, excrement? Such trees couldn’t thrive without a rich soil, constant watering, much care. He disapproved of their lavishness, their thriftlessness.
We have complete freedom of the press in A-Io, which inevitably means we get a lot of trash.
The Odonian society called itself anarchistic, he said, but they were in fact mere primitive populists whose social order functioned without apparent government because there were so few of them and because they had no neighbor states.