May 9th, 2009

The White Wolf

LeGuin, The Dispossessed

This is an (edited and slightly updated) reprint of a review I posted on Usenet back in 2001 of Ursula K. LeGuin's great novel The Dispossessed, a book which I greatly enjoyed but also found to be greatly flawed. This is a critical review which assumes that you've read the story, and hence I did not include a story synopsis.

Detailed Review with SpoilersCollapse )


The Dispossessed is a good book, but very deeply flawed. Ursula K. LeGuin intended to compare and contrast Anarres with the real world, but did so only by loading the balance scales -- the "real world" shown is a combination of the worst of capitalist societies; Anarres is an idealized anarcho-socialist utopia with very managable problems. At the same time, many of the problems are "the planet ate my homework" type problems, supposedly due to the harshness of the environment, but clearly (to me, anyway) due to Anarresti lethargy in exploiting their opportunities.

It is peculiarly a book of its times -- c. 1970, when many intellectuals felt that America was fundamentally flawed, and that there was something alien, and better, that could be built. As such, I don't know if it will last, save with the support of nostalgiac teachers.

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