The Dispossessed

Next in the Educate Myself in Classic SciFi series, I read The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin, at the recommendation of Themba. I was really impressed! It’s about a physicist, Shevek, who comes from the satellite planet Anarres and goes to main planet Urras. Anarres is supposed to be a world of imposed anarchy, or at least a society with no central power. Despite all intentions to keep any group from gaining power over another (or perhaps because of this), society still somehow starts to develop a sort of power imbalance. On Urras, however, Shevek is quite literally imprisoned by the overly capitalist society.

I was particularly interested in the linguistic relativity elements (I guess because I’m a language person), especially the idea that language on Anarres wouldn’t have a possessive form at all because that whole concept isn’t part of the collective mindset. It reminds me of Anthem, of course, and how their language exists exclusively in the collective tense.

However, I can’t help but feel that the book may not mean quite as much to later generations (say, people born in the 1990s onward) because (a) they didn’t grow up with the Soviet Union and there is a very clear parallel to the US-Soviet Union tension on Urras, and (b) the ansible probably doesn’t sound all that amazing to people for whom texting and videochatting are the norm. Just a thought.

Anyway, very highly recommended. If you liked Anthem and/or Stranger in a Strange Land, you’ll like The Dispossessed. Especially you libertarians.

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