Big Brother Has Competition in Ursula K LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed”

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It would be an understatement to say that The Dispossessed is a politically charged novel. But, as fellow science-fiction author Gregory Frost once said in an interview, “All science-fiction is political.” Science-fiction is inherently political because it’s predicting a specific future and the events that caused that specific future to happen.

I can’t consider myself a sci-fi guru in the least, but what I can say is that after finishing The Dispossessed the next three science fiction novels I read (even award winning ones!) felt dull, shallow, and outdated. Granted, The Dispossessed isn’t devoid of its own awards, winning the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus. No disputes here.

So much has changed since the novel was released in 1974, but considering the current tumult of our political landscape, it shows the unrivaled prescience with which LeGuin writes. The two worlds of Anarres and Urras have chosen to stay separate from one another for ideological reasons. However, when circumstances of interstellar travel and opportunity compel Shevek (a citizen of Anarres) to return to Urras he is thrust into an even more divisive political unrest between two warring states of capitalism and communism. If that doesn’t sound familiar, I suggest you turn on the television or read a newspaper. Or climb out from your bunker.

There have been reports going around that since November’s presidential election George Orwell’s 1984 has been flying off the shelves. Bookstores can’t keep it in stock (we will attest to that.) Another source claims that as of right now, it might be the most sold fiction book of the year that isn’t published in 2017. That’s crazy. But you know what? I see way more similarities between what’s going on in our world and in the worlds of The Dispossessed than I do in 1984. So if you really want some literary insight, you have my full recommendation.

The Dispossessed is marvelous writing and a marvelous read. Worthy of all the acclaim LeGuin has received for it. 4.5/5 stars.

 

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Is this another bug hunt?

 

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In honor of Father’s Day—you’ll see why in a second—I’ve decided to commence our brevity book reviews with a science fiction classic.

Starship Troopers, or Starship Solider as it was originally called (and still should be to avoid confusion with the nothing-like-it movie) follows the young, bored, brash, yet often terrified (“I always get the shakes before a drop”) Johnny Rico as he attempts to carve out a name and notoriety for himself by enlisting in the Mobile Infantry—on a whim.

What makes Johnny’s military adventure compelling is not that ten thousand other authors haven’t done the exact same thing—they have. What makes this story different is that Robert Heinlein was one of the first writer’s to do it. Do what you ask? Well, unlike the movie, the novel only has two real battle scenes: one at the very beginning and one at the very end. The rest of the book is about Johnny Rico’s training and preparation. And also something else.

If you haven’t read Starship Troopers yet, I’ll try not to spoil anything. I don’t want to be the guy on Facebook that everyone hates for blabbing about the latest casualty in Game of Thrones. But I will say this: When Johnny’s dad repudiates his desire to join the military (and Johnny does anyway) their relationship is severed. Throughout the novel, Johnny continually encounters strong male figures as a way to replace his father. So the uncommon trait—for me, anyway—is that when you boil out all the bugs—at its heart, this is story about fathers and sons.

Do I think this was the greatest science fiction novel ever written? No. Is it even in my top ten? Nope. But there’s something to be said about forerunners. They establish foundations for the rest of us to build upon. Science fiction would not be where it is without Heinlein’s contributions to the writing community. For this reason, Starship Troopers is laudable. 3/5 stars.

 

P.S. If you’ve ever played the video game Starcraft, you’ll see that the game designers got much of their inspiration for the ‘Zerg’ from Heinlein’s bugs.

 

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Better Late…

If you have visited our website in the last, well, two years or so, you may have clicked the “blog” link. As the page loaded you were surely overcome with excitement at the prospects of book reviews and other such book-related content. Then, as the wonders of the World Wide Web materialized onto your monitor, disappointment reigned. There was no content! Only the promise of some to come.

keep-calm-better-late-than-never

Well friends, that long overdue promise is about to be fulfilled. Start approximately now-ish, we will begin posting those book reviews and other book-related content. We may not have regimented posting dates initially (we’re still working out the kinks), but rest assured, they will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, if you have any topics you’d be particularly interested in reading about, leave a comment with your suggestions here or on our Facebook page. And also check us out on Instagram.

May the Words Be With You!

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