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The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed

An Ambiguous Utopia

Book - 1974 | 1st ed
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Publisher: New York : Harper & Row, [1974]
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060125639
Branch Call Number: SCI LEGUI-U
Characteristics: 341 p.; 22 cm


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Tyrion Lannister

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LPL_LeahN Aug 11, 2020

Ursula K. Le Guin is an undisputed master of the sci-fi genre and this 1974 modern classic is living, immortal proof. Every page gives you something to think about, twists your mind into knots that you're able to slowly unravel as you follow Shevek across planets and through time. He's somewhat of a paradox, brilliant scientist and Bohemian, and his story is one of revolution, evolution, humanity, capitalism, objective truth, the pursuit of happiness, and so much more. This book is a must read and I cannot recommend it highly enough for book clubs! So much to unpack and discuss.

Paul D'Aoust
Nov 02, 2019

A fabulous book. The vision is compelling, stirring, calls to me in a way that the dominant cultural narrative just can't touch. Challenging as well, and very cohesively written. This is the first Le Guin book I've written, and I was captivated by her human-ness --- she doesn't write science fiction; she uses science fiction to write about people in ways that she otherwise couldn't.

This edition, however, is pretty rife with typographical errors. Not sure how it got past the editors.

Jul 24, 2019

I listened to the audiobook of this one and I really enjoyed it. It really challenged my imagination regarding different ways to form societies and interpersonal relationships, the challenges and joys of each, and revolution. In that sense it is an especially inspiring and, in many ways, heartwarming read for the present time.

There's one thing I didn't really like though, and that's that the main character commits a rape. I think Ms. Le Guin's point was around the corrupting influence of a society viewing women as property on men. I understand this sort of: I definitely think one of the driving factors behind the prevalence of rape is a tacit societal agreement that women 'owe' things to men, sometimes harkening back to the not-too-distant past where women were literally owned by their fathers and husbands, and could not own property. However, our main character is a relatable character. He is not perfect, but I think most of the framing of the novel positions him as a 'good man'. By including the rape scene--even though it's very clearly positioned as a bad thing he did and a source of shame--the implication could be read as, "good men commit rape because of the societies they live in" and I'm not very comfortable with that implication. It is the unavoidable flip side of 'rape is driven by societal norms' but it brushes irritatingly close to absolving rapists of personal responsibility. I don't know. I'm not completely unhappy with it being included because it's certainly thought-provoking, but if having the central character commit rape is something that will be upsetting to you, this might not be a book you want to read.

I'll definitely read more Le Guin though. Her philosophical thinking is rich and engaging, and exploring her philosophy through fiction is a lot more fun than reading straight philosophical texts as I had to do in college :P. Her writing is vivid and her imagination is spectacular. With the caveat above included regarding content warning, I would very much recommend this book.

Jan 10, 2019

Interesting book. I probably should have read it more closely. I was waiting for a big bang ending but it never came. I would recommend this book still.

WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

This is my favorite science fiction novel of all time (my signed paperback is one of my most prized possessions) and it won late author Ursula K. Le Guin (a long-time resident of Portland, Oregon) both the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction. Don’t let the initial slow pacing or non-linear chronology deter you---this book is packed with great characters and thought-provoking ideas. I’d also argue that the subtitle --An ambiguous utopia--- is as meaningful as the title.

Jun 30, 2018

Le Guin presents a world built on hope and the problems that could arise from that in the The Dispossessed. If doesn't seem like a super exciting tag line that's because it isn't. It will probably read really dry for those who don't identify with personally with Anarchism. That said if you stick with it, it will turn out to be a really rewarding immersive piece of speculative science fiction, that asks what utopia actually looks like, and what would happen to individual discontent within that society. The book has a demysitifying that is really refreshing, and makes utopia seem not only plausible but also normative and potentially boring.

May 18, 2018

If you do not like to think, do not like to be enthralled and you pale at the sight of witty, pithy prose, then you will not like The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.
You can not just read The Dispossessed. You read it. You put it down, usually only after a page. And you think, think about human nature, the nature of the universe, philosophy of thought, maths, physics, what IS the best stroke for swimming long distance. You’re about to pick it up again and realize half an hour has gone by while your mind has chewed on the words you’ve just read. You pick it up again. Read only two paragraphs before having to put it down .. again.
I loved how just about every page made some interesting comment on society. How it could be. How it is right now. She comments on pretty much every aspect: from the ethics of current prison systems to romantic love. She gets you thinking of what would make a society a utopia. I really liked the fact that university classes could be orchestrated by student demand, teacher initiative or both. And the folks in the utopia are appalled by the notion of examination being a pattern of, “cramming in information and disgorging it”, and that such a system would be a, “deterrent to the natural wish to learn”. It’s a society built for thought, free exchange of ideas, “intellectual solidarity”, the antithesis of intellectual property, of knowledge freely shared. Can you imagine scientists, artists, any profession from all over the world having that kind of freedom?? “They argued because they liked argument, liked the swift run of the unfettered mind along paths of possibility, liked to question what was not questioned.” I love how this isn’t about winning an argument, like what seems to be the purpose of so many arguments in our world. It is rather about the hashing out of something we want to understand better and that can be achieved through discourse. I also like this method of trying to understand a concept because it’s a reflection of each individual’s knowledge, their individual synthesis of all previous data, and their personal experience.
It did make me sad in several places. I mean how could a book that questions some of the more hideous aspects of society not make one sad. Like does a utopia have to be constrained by some extreme circumstance (in this case living in an extremely austere environment on a barely habitable world) in order for humans to live a life of brotherhood and an innate sense of putting others before yourself, to not “egoize”. It’s nice to see someone asking the same questions I have asked myself.
One last thing. The full title is The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. I found out that another writer, Sam Delany, has a book called Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia. When asked about this similarity between the two titles Delany, while talking about Le Guin’s more excellent writing points, also criticized her for a fairly heteronormative book that was supposed to be about inclusion and the robustness of diversity, yet only has one character that is not straight who’s kind of sad and lonely and a very minor character. However, Delany’s book explores that diversity further. He has a solid point, but I still think that Le Guin was ahead of her time in all other respects. The Dispossessed is written in the mid 70s and a lot of those ideas she thought of as utopian are ones we are still trying to catch up with. That being said, sounds like Triton takes it one step further. He didn’t set out to write it as a response to her work. I read an interview where he said he’d finished the first draft before picking up The Dispossessed, but after reading it there were a few tweaks to make it a dialogue with Le Guin. Tweaks like adding the subtitle ‘An Ambiguous Heterotopia’.

Mar 17, 2018

This is one of the best poli-sci-fi books I've ever read. Not a shoot-em-up or a car chase in space, hoping for movie fame, this is a book for readers. It revived the long-ago feel of discovering Ray Bradbury. Rich in detail, fully developed characters...what more can I say about highly I can recommend this novel?

Oct 26, 2017

part of a series

JCLEmilyD Aug 30, 2017

This scifi is about two planets with drastically different cultures and societies. Shevek travels from his world Anarres to Urras, the first traveler since the colonization of Anarres. Shevek is trying to find his utopia, but it isn't where he thinks it is. Excellent scifi read.

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Jul 25, 2019

"You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. 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."

Jan 18, 2015

...the competition for scholarships was stiffer every year, proving the essential democracy of the institution..."You put another lock on the door and call it democracy."

Aug 25, 2014

"Change is freedom, change is life."


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