The Dispossessed - Ursula Le Guin

The third of my holiday novels, and pretty heavy going compared to the previous two. You can tell this by the fact that I took until a week after my holiday had ended to finish it. It's not really 'real' sci-fi of the 'oh, look, the techonology!' school, but much more focussed on people and society. It's about a scientist who is doing great work across two planets with very different societies, but it could have been written quite happily with any creative type, and different continents, for the same message in a fantasy setting. So, independent of genre... is it any good?

Yes. It's almost plotless - the protagonist is on a journey, but it's neither conclusive or central. The whole thing is quite plodding. Really, it's about the contrast between the two societies - an anarchist world, and a capitalist society in the middle of a cold war. The anarchist world is effectively a communist paradise - full of hardship but also camaraderie. It's mostly an exploration of this, with the capitalist world as a foil. Having said that, nothing's 2-D, and everyone has sensible motivation, which makes a change from many books. The exploration of how convention becomes law in a lawless society is pretty good. The book is a product of the seventies, but has aged remarkably well. All-in-all, it's a thoughtful, if ponderous, novel.

Posted 2007-02-11.