Tag Archives: utopia/dystopia

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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The Year of the Flood

So I was VERY excited to hear that Margaret Atwood was coming out with a new novel.  She is one of my favourite contemporary novelists and I’ve loved almost everything I’ve ever read by her.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve read more of her works than anyone else’s (except maybe Shakespeare).

Anyway, as I said in my last post (over a month ago, yikes!) The Year of the Flood overlaps somewhat with Oryx & Crake. It’s the same scenario but goes back a bit to reveal some of the characters that are marginally important in Oryx & Crake.  I especially liked Brenda’s role, which is expanded beyond the briefest of mentions in O&K.

And like O&K, I think The Year of the Flood is brilliant. Atwood simply is a master of language and she can really weave a tale.  I think I actually liked Oryx & Crake better, but I liked learning about God’s Gardeners in depth and seeing what they were like.  And of course I liked how everything ties in to some of the plot line of O&K.

Really masterful.

Oryx and Crake

To be perfectly honest, I love Margaret Atwood but had no intentions of reading Oryx and Crake until I found out her new book is somewhat related to it. I thought, “What a strange name for a book. I shan’t read it!” (Except I probably don’t use the word shan’t in my subconscious. Or outer conscious.) But I’m glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale had always been one of my favourite books of all time, and this was even more grand. There’s something about a good post-apocalyptic science fiction that just gets me.

Oryx and Crake is about a man, Snowman, who lives as a hermit after the initially unexplained destruction of civilization. He lives among (and yet quite separate from) genetically altered docile, human-like creatures, as well as vicious gene-spliced animals which run rampant through the remains of the city. Through a series of flashbacks we begin to learn more about what exactly happened, and about Snowman’s own involvement in the destruction of mankind.

Bottom line: it’s absolutely fabulous. Atwood is so gifted and sometimes really freakin’ scary. She really explores what we’re capable of doing and pushes the boundaries to the extremes – and yet it’s even scarier because her scenarios are never quite too extreme to be impossible. That’s the thing – she calls it speculative fiction because we’re already technically capable of doing a lot of what she depicts, or at least on the direction of it. She just imagines what would happen if we did follow this exact trajectory, and if we allowed ourselves to continue on this path of unhindered consumerism and technological advancements. Basically, Snowman’s world is really our world if we don’t continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is ethical.

Definitely read this book! I just started The Year of the Flood, which takes place in the same time frame as Oryx and Crake.

I, Robot

Next is I, Robot by Cory Doctorow (free at Feedbooks) – not Asimov’s, although that is certainly on my list to read also. It reminded me a lot of Anthem by Ayn Rand. Now I love dystopian literature but it always really scares the hell out of me. This was no exception. Imagine a society – the country is called the United North American Trading Sphere, the police are called Social Harmony, and robots control pretty much every aspect of life. And the rival country, Eurasia, regularly smuggles in robot parts which can be used to attack UNATS to undermine the social structure. Arturo is a cop with a twelve-year-old daughter who is kidnapped; meanwhile he still has to deal with the fact that his wife left him and defected to Eurasia and builds the subversive robots. And Social Harmony knows all this. Freakin’ scary. My extremely libertarian boyfriend would have a field day with this one!