I Wanna Be Literated #229

I Wanna Be Literated #229

Thursday, 08 October 2020

The Dispossessed
by Ursula LeGuin

I love Sci-Fi. I really do. I like to think of myself as a sci-fi guy. I’m not just talking movies and TV shows (the good ones, at least), but I try to actually do the work and read the classics. I’m waiting to meet a guru of the genre one day who can guide me to the real classics, and lesser known greats. Until then, I’m stuck going for the obvious choices. Of course, Isaac Asimov was an early favorite of mine and really set the bar for what can be done in long-form or short stories.

Surprisingly, not much else has made an impact on me (except maybe for Ted Chiang’s short stories). I thought most short stories I read were OK and didn’t quite meet my expectations, and then I remembered that I had never given Ursula LeGuin a try. How could I let that happen? Finding where to start with her can be daunting, so I went with a fan’s recommendation and read the Dispossessed. And, to quote Jebidiah Atkinson, I am NOT IMPRESSED.

Look, I love a slow boil but honestly, not much happens in the Dispossessed. The premise is pretty interesting, a people are divided as an anarchist community is set up on the moon of some planet, only to have them begin to mingle again after many decades. Reading how LeGuin details fleshes out this society, like its reverence of its founder, its naming system, its perseverance in scarcity, and its interpersonal relationships compared to the planet it orbits is all very interesting. But, the Dispossessed goes back and forth between present and past of its main character Shevek, how he grew up, and how he ended up on the main planet Urras. The world LeGuin describes is dreary and lacking in any kind of joy and not really a place I liked being transported to when reading. It’s only at the end that we find the real reason Shevek was granted passage to Urras but we never find the outcome. I know The Dispossessed is part of a series, but this book is just basically Shevek’s life, which is pretty dull and joyless.

I like seeing how the sausage is made but the end of Dispossessed left me feeling hungry and cheated.

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