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The Dispossessed: 04/25/08

The Dispossessed

The full title of Ursula K. Le Guin's award winning novel is The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. It's part of along tradition of ambiguous utopian novels that are thinly dressed critiques of contemporary society. In the case of The Dispossessed the two societies in question are the United States and the Soviet Union.

What makes Le Guin's utopia all the more ambiguous is her refusal to take sides. Both societies are flawed in a number of ways and yet both have supporters and detractors. Like so many of these novels, the story is told from the perspective of a traveler, Shevek, a physicist who has left Anarres (USSR) to continue his research on Urras (USA). It is through a combination of flashbacks to Anarres and his social faux pas that Le Guin reveals the good and bad of both societies.

The Dispossessed exists in the same universe as Left-Hand of Darkness (1969) and the other Hainish cycle books. In terms of the story timeline, it's comes first in the series but was the fifth published. The details linking it to the other Hainish books are sparse and the novel works well as a stand alone.

Along with The Dispossessed I also recommend:

  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726, 1735)
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (1895)
  • Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang (1927)
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
  • The Left-Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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