BRIEF SYNOPSIS: (Leveraged completely from John’s review) A brilliant physicist named Shevek tries to reunite the anarchist world of Anarres with its sister planet Urras.
PROS: Somewhat interesting exploration of the differences between two politco-social ideologies, the universe the story is set in sounds interesting although we don’t get to see it.
CONS: Slow moving, little action, dry writing, unmemorable characters (except Shevek), reads like a political textbook wrapped in a SF covering.
BOTTOM LINE: Much as I felt the first time I read it, I found The Dispossed to be a slow, dreary read, potentially interesting to people who are more interested in society and politics than in SF.
I’ll let John’s review do all the heavy lifting regard the plot of the book, I’ll focus solely on my reading experience. Which can be summed up in one word: dull. Not quite as dry or slow as Fire Time, but pretty darn close. I kept thinking to myself, “This won the Nebula and Hugo?”. Unlike John, I don’t mind politics in my SF, see Dune, but it’s got to be interesting. This book seemed to be a lot of talk, talk, talk about the different societies, but nothing gets resolved and nothing much happens. I also felt that LeGuin was using the book to proselytize at us. Maybe not, but it was certainly a preachy book. The SF elements are there just to setup the discussions about the societies or as McGuffins (Shevek’s Theory of Simultaneity). The story itself did absolutely nothing for me. I’m glad I didn’t read it at night, as I usually do, as I’d probably fall asleep quickly and still be reading it. As it was, I had to force myslef to keep going.
It’s not all bad. Shevek is a fairly sympathetic character. In some way, he’s ruled by events and manipulated by those around him. He finally takes charge of his life near the end and becomes a stronger person for it. Also, the universe itself that LeGuin has created outside Annares and Urras sounds interesting. Too bad we only get hints about it and instead get heaping doses of political discourse thrown at us.
Unless you are into philosphical ruminations about politics, give this ‘award winner’ a pass.