The Dispossessed

Ursula K. Le Guin
The Dispossessed Cover

The Dispossessed


This wonderful story starts in the middle, then alternates chapters looking at history leading up to the middle and events after the mid point. While the story would work well in a linear fashion, the alternating chapters can reference some of the same ideas, one past and one present. Subtle (and smart).

Briefly (and linearly) this story concerns Shevek, resident of a planet whose inhabitants left the main group 170 years before. They were protesting the policies and politics of that group, roughly socialism (or anarchy) vs capitalism. The main character returns to the main group and his point of view allows the author to explore the differences in outlook - and means.

In this profit based society, Shevek has access to the materials to finish and test his work on temporal physics. This aspect of the story is important for the the Ansible, a device that provides instantaneous communication across the galaxy - imagine any space opera without it! This device really isn't the main focus of the story, but fits nicely hand-in-glove with other plot. Shevek the outsider is compared, contrasted, and compartmentalized at first.

This is not the first story written in Le Guin's Hainish universe, though it is the first in timeline order. It is not the first I have read either. I enjoyed this story slightly more than the Left Hand of Darkness, and plan to read more soon.