Harper & Row 1974
The Dispossessed has reminded me what science fiction is capable of. Published in 1974, I’m amazed by its timelessness. It could have been written yesterday. It could be written 50 years from now. And I think this is something that many of the best science fiction novels have in common. It tackles ideas that, no matter what technology is or isn’t present, are relevant to humanity as a whole. I’m clearly behind on Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m sure the whole literary world already knows she’s a genius, so there’s nothing more for me to do but reiterate that fact. She is a true genius and an astounding writer. In The Dispossessed, she made me think new things, and see old things in new ways. There were countless paragraphs I read two or three times over because one time wasn’t nearly enough time to process.
The story starts off a little slow, but that’s only because you’re thrust into the middle of the plot on the first page. It takes a little adjusting to, but once you get used to the structure, the alternating chapter POVs contribute to the powerfulness of the story. There are two separate timelines that Le Guin alternates between. The first chapter takes place in the protagonist’s current situation, and the next takes place in his past, and so on. This structure works really well to emphasize how the main character grows and changes because you’re learning about his life as a child and young adult alongside his present life. And when, at the end of the novel, you learn the extent of the sacrifices he made for the pursuit of knowledge and for his people, it hits you more powerfully because of this structure. If you like science fiction, if you don’t like science fiction, it doesn’t matter. The Dispossessed is a Must Read and will make you reevaluate how you see the world, government, capitalism, education, and your own personal priorities.