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Tomash's thoughts: The Dispossessed
Thu Jul 5, 2018 7:01pm

So, I'd gotten on a minor Ursula K. Le Guin kick earlier when someone pointed me at The Left Hand of Darkness. This led me to read The Dispossessed, and now I can come by with some hopefully somewhat coherent thoughts on it.

The plot: it exists, and there are sufficient amounts of it that you're reading a story and not a pile of worldbuilding calling itself a novel. (That is, this is not a Neal Stephenson book, but it does veer in that direction on occasion.)

However, the plot really isn't the point of the book. The point is to deliver on the subtitle "An Ambiguous Utopia". We get the contrasts between Annares (a planet of anarchists) and Urras (the nearby planet they'd left because that's how the revolution ended up getting resolved). The narrative structure (which alternates chapter-by-chapter between Shevek's time on Urras and the backstory that led him there) as well as the viewpoint character (Shevek, a physicist who ran into some of the problems with the society on Annares) gives us a good view of the upsides and downsides of both an anarchist society and much more typical places. (For example, even without laws, you're still likely to end up with some form of power structure and "laws" enforced by social consensus. On the other hand, down on Urras there's, say, a lot of poverty, sexism, capitalist/socialist "democracies" - this was written during the Cold War, that sort of thing.)

Overall, The Dispossessed basically presents some ideas about how society could work and doesn't hit you over the head too much with a desired conclusion (sure, it might have a pro-anarchist lean, but it's not being blatant about it). Personally, I didn't walk away too sold on the concept of this form of anarchism - it felt somewhat unworkable and that a lot of the problems inherent in power structures this system was meant to solve were still rather present on Annares. But I'd recommend people interested people read for themselves and reach their own conclusions.

- Tomash, posting rambling thoughts on some book he read because why not

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