Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin

Title: The Dispossessed
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Rating: Great!

A while back I reviewed The Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin, and wasn't that impressed. It was good, but I had some issues with it. With this review I get write something more positive. I found The Dispossessed a very good book, with a lot to recommend it. It's complex and thought provoking, with a deliberately ambiguous point of view about some very difficult subjects. And, surprisingly, it's set in the same universe as The Left Hand of Darkness. It's a prequel of sorts, though no characters are common, and the time frames don't overlap at all. Looking at the Wikipedia entry on Le Guin I see that she's written eight novels and thirteen short stories set in this universe. I had no idea.

In The Dispossessed, Le Guin takes a long look at what we would call both communism and capitalism, pulling no punches, and showing the good and bad sides of each. Initially I was afraid it was just a diatribe, but she steered well clear of that and instead gives the reader a well thought out encounter between two very different cultures that happen to share a common past.

I found the characters believable and the settings interesting. The writing is crisp and well paced, with the exception of one point, early on, where I briefly got confused. Then I realized we were in a flashback and it sorted itself out. Most of the book alternates chapters between the past and present of the main character, Shevek, a brilliant physicist. He leads an interesting life, and challenges all kinds of simplistic thinking along the way.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone because I want you to read it, so I'll stop the description there.

The Dispossessed is an excellent book, well worth your time and effort. Read it if you can.