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 felt dull, shallow, and outdated.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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