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The Dispossessed: A Novel | [Ursula K. Le Guin]

The Dispossessed: A Novel

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.
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Publisher's Summary

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

©1974 Ursula K. Le Guin (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1975
  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1974

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (205 )
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  •  
    Justin United States 09-18-12
    Justin United States 09-18-12 Member Since 2010
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    "The Anti Atlas Shrugged"

    It is the opposite of Atlas Shrugged in nearly ever aspect. From the political message it conveys, to the likability of the characters and to the quality of the writing, this book is everything I wanted Atlas Shrugged to be but found lacking. It is a very high quality work of fiction and is also a testament to science and philosophy. I can't recommend it enough.

    It is also one of the few books I have read on the philosophy and politics of Anarchism (see also The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein). What's really amazing to me is that a book on Anarchism (this book) can be so starkly different from a book on Libertarianism (Atlas Shrugged) since Libertarianism is actually a branch of anarchy. The main difference of course is in the Libertarian union with Capitalism. The Dispossessed meticulously and convincingly exposes the weaknesses and inherent flaws in a Capitalistic society and will leave you pining for Odonian brotherhood.

    Agree or disagree with the philosophies in this book, it will at the very least make you think about something new and probably feel something new as well.

    25 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Isaac Coquitlam, BC, Canada 10-09-10
    Isaac Coquitlam, BC, Canada 10-09-10
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    "One of my favorite novels of all time"

    Some readers and critics have suggested that Le Guin is "promoting" anarchism/communism; this is too simplistic, since the book is far too subtle and tentative to work as propaganda. Instead, she posits an attractive and idealistic society, contrasts it with a world with an appealing facade and an unattractive underclass, and shows how human nature tends to corrupt even the most well-meaning of civilizations. A book of ideas rather than of advocacy, "The Dispossessed" challenges readers to envision humankind's limitless possibilities.

    26 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    thomas charlotte, NC, United States 04-29-13
    thomas charlotte, NC, United States 04-29-13 Member Since 2012

    I work full time in Financial Services, teach part time, listen to music (a lot) and love Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction.

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    "I Thoroughly Enjoyed It."
    What made the experience of listening to The Dispossessed the most enjoyable?

    Great production of a great scientific fiction classic. The narrator went back and forth between characters with ease. He also highlighted the gravity of the writing, which is spectacular in a clear and simple manner.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Shevek has to be one of the most compelling characters I have every read. I didn't always like him but he served as a touchstone for the ideas and concepts in the book from economics, to the Sapir Whor hypothesis, moral and ethics and physics. A very compelling and thought provoking character.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The scenes of Shevek as a young man were interesting, I couldn't help thinking of Catcher in the Rye at times. I also wondered how powerful this might have been to read this book as a younger man.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The scenes of Shevek with his family were very moving. As a fan of traditional or hard science fiction I typically don't get into more relationship driven stores, but this was an exception. These scenes were a stark contrast to the modern lifestyle of constant entertainment that many of us find ourselves dependent on for fun. It really made you re-evaluate how you decide to spend your time. It was something I did not expect of the novel and I found it fascinating, a real meditation on modern life.


    Any additional comments?

    I think it would be too easy to dismiss this story as "anti-Ayn Rand" or "socialist", its really more multi layered than that...If you can be open to a story that will make you rethink social, political, moral, ethical and existential ideas you would truly enjoy the novel. The book is not written in black and while tones, there are critiques and nuances to all the social and political structures that make it incredibly well written.

    My only disappointment is that The Left Hand of Darkness is not on Audible, which makes more insight into LeGuins "Hannish Cycle" not complete.

    I am really glad I listened/read this novel.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 04-23-12
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 04-23-12 Member Since 2006

    If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.

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    "Great story, philosophical and poignant"

    One of the 2 best adult sci-fi titles Le Guin has given us; I was very happy to re-read it (after about 30 years) when it came to Audible finally. It's a meditation on human nature, disguised as commentary on the Cold War. At first it seems as if she's idealizing socialist society, but she does an excellent job critiquing it, with an almost Randian notion of egalitarianism suffocating human ingenuity. I finished it yesterday and I'm still chewing it over.

    The reader is fine, a little slow and I used the audible app's 1.5x speed feature sometimes.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 08-16-11
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 08-16-11 Member Since 2001

    I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.

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    "Best of Audible SFF, September 2010"

    Ursula K. Le Guin???s classic 1974 novel The Dispossessed is brought wonderfully to audio courtesy a Harper Audio production of an excellent Don Leslie narration. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, it is also (and much less impressively, I might add!) my pick for the best new science fiction and fantasy audiobook at Audible.com in September 2010. The publisher???s summary is brief: ???Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.??? Here, there is simply too much to say, and so I will play a bit of the coward and not say much at all, other than: Le Guin???s Anarres is the definitive rendering of anarchism in fiction, and this is an unforgettable novel, and a masterful narration.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 06-17-14
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 06-17-14

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

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    "The ^HIGH^ orbit of what SF can do"

    le Guin's 'The Dispossessed' represents the high orbit of what SF can do. Science Fiction is best, most lasting, most literate, when it is using its conventional form(s) to explore not space but us. When the vehicle of SF is used to ask big questions that are easier bent with binary planets, with grand theories of time and space, etc., we are able to better understand both the limits and the horizons of our species.

    The great SF writers (Asimov, Vonnegut, Heinlein, Dick, Bradbury, etc) have been able to explore political, economic, social, and cultural questions/possibilities using the future, time, and the wide-openness of space. Ursula K. Le Guin belongs firmly in the pantheon of great social SF writers. She will be read far into the future -- not because her writing reflects the future, but because it captures the now so perfectly.

    21 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marissa 12-04-14
    Marissa 12-04-14 Member Since 2011
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    "A beautiful work"
    Any additional comments?

    This novel was a sublime listen. The author fully imagines a futuristic anarchistic society and the man who lives it, loves it and sees it flaws. She explores the true cost and value of individual freedom. Much of the novel is the beautiful observations of the anarchistic society and some sometimes flat observations of a capitalist class-based society.

    But much of the book is simply Shevek, the protagonist, sorting out his own existence. Miss Le Guin’s musings on marriage, friendship, love, parenting, professional work, sacrifice are poetic, honest, and universal.

    All of this is of course in a sci-fi wrapper, but the story is never about the genre, but rather lets that limitless arena underscore her exploration of the Human Life.

    The narrator is definitely up to the task, and what seems like a detached and naive tone at the beginning, builds into an intense empathic performance by the end. I could not recommend this novel more!

    I’d also like to comment in response to a couple of other reviews. I have read Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand’s other works and loved them all. What I see that Miss Rand has in common with Miss Le Guin is the belief that individual freedom lies at the heart of all good, and thus, power over others, lies at the heart of all evil. While they see Freedom very differently, they both touched me deeply on that wavelength. But just to clarify, The Dispossessed is a true work of art concerning much more than a political statement, and even offering critique of its own politics. Atlas Shrugged, on the other hand, is a fully argued case for its author’s philosophy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, United States 10-20-14
    Amazon Customer MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, United States 10-20-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Well, that was quite the mind-full!"

    I think I'm going to have to go back and read this one with my eyeballs rather than my ears. It's a lot easier to stop and mull things over when you're reading, as opposed to listening, and there were quite a few times that I felt I was rushed through the moment by the audio. Also, the first "flashback" (for want of a better term) was rather jarring and I spent a few minutes trying to work out if there had been some malfunction with the audio player/file.

    Medium aside, this was a very interesting book on several levels. It's the story of a man (Shevek) from the anarchist planet of Anarres and follows his early and middle years (in an interleaved fashion) describing life on both Anarres and, to some extent, the nearby Urras - both planets of the star Tau Ceti. There's a relatively objective view of both the vast anarchistic commune that is Anarres as well as the major capitalist/socialist countries (in what appears to be a rather blatant mirroring of Earth). The story includes plenty of the nitty-gritty details of running Anarres by the generally pacifist-anarchists, and how humans are generally likely to mess up a "perfect" political situation with their inevitable desire for personal power. Overlaid is Shevek's tale, usually told from his perspective and, since he's a physicist, he often brings a very clinical logic to bear on his everyday life that leads to a number of thought-provoking insights.

    Story aside, the writing was extremely enjoyable, if not beautiful. It felt a little wordy at times, like it needed one more round of culling to make it perfect.

    The version I listened to was beautifully read by Don Leslie and had no annoying audio additions to get in the way of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlos Cortés Bay Area, California 07-18-12
    Carlos Cortés Bay Area, California 07-18-12 Member Since 2005
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    "The dream of communism is still alive, unfortunate"
    Would you try another book from Ursula K. Le Guin and/or Don Leslie?

    no


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    uninteresting and anti-climactic


    What does Don Leslie bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    excellent reader.


    Was The Dispossessed worth the listening time?

    For a political philosophy junkie like me, barely, for most people I think not.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is about what communists and socialists dream about, what's called anarcho-syndicalism. As such, it's very well executed. As an aspiring writer, I find anarchy a very interesting topic. This was a good book to get a feel of what what these types are thinking. I believe, the anarchists you heard about among the occupy wall st crowd were essentially of this variation. What I found interesting was to identify the inconsistencies with this vision. But I find Anarcho-capitalist's arguments much more compelling. For an understanding of that perspective, read 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' in fiction or 'A Market for Liberty' in non-fiction.

    These people are supposedly free, but they can't leave their planet, and no one is allowed to come to theirs, they can't name their own children, and a computer runs their lives even separating families which are very loosely sanctioned. And nobody who's in charge of keeping the 'ruling computer' uses it corruptly for their benefit, though there are hints of corruption that don't seem to spin out of control like we witness in every pretty much every society with a power structure.

    Every effort at communism end's in very big, corrupt government and severe poverty if not outright starvation, so this vision is totally impossible. Le Guin recognizes that such 'equality' means a more meager existence, but she under-appreciates the complete societal breakdown which ensues.
    This book has nothing to do with reality, but gives insight into a very odd and dangerous political philosophy.

    The book, while reasonably engaging and well written, is also overly philosophical and insufficiently story-based. The science fiction ideas are totally weak and erroneous. The protagonist travels around near light-speed without having to worry about aging differences with his loved ones. She doesn't seem to fully understand her invention of the Ansible which is reused from an earlier novel.

    4 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Waterloo, ON, Canada 10-02-10
    William Waterloo, ON, Canada 10-02-10
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    "Communist tripe"

    No idea how this book won those awards. One planet has strong state control and the other is a impoverished communist utopia, and the story is one big waste of time.

    4 of 67 people found this review helpful
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