The Dispossessed

A Novel
Narrated by: Don Leslie
Length: 13 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,489 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

92 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Strangely unlistenable

I've enjoyed Mrs Le Guin's writing for four decades now. I'm guessing that "The Dispossessed" is of her usual high standards, but Don Leslie's reading is so bland as to make me lose the thread again and again, so I can't say what I think of the story yet . This is a problem with some American voice artists; They have pleasant voices, very nice enunciation, read at an unrushed tempo, but their delivery is more suited to grief counseling, insomniac cures or similar. Mr Leslie is, I'm sure, a very pleasant man with many endearing qualities, and his reading is impeccable, but he doesn't engage with the listener at all. I gave the performance two stars, that's one star for the overall performance and a bonus star for very good diction, as I appreciate good craftsmanship.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Better suited for traditional reading

I think I'm going to have to give this book another shot, old school style. I vaguely enjoyed the story, but had trouble paying full attention with the narrator's calming voice. I felt that when it switched between past/present there should have been a more pronounced change in the narrator's tone perhaps. I'm not sure...
Exploring the ideas of anarcho-communism is intriguing, and I think Le Guin does a good job of showcasing some of the benefits, requirements, and ultimate struggles that such a society entails. Again, I think to truly get this book I would like to read it normally, or at least listen again in one setting when I can pay closer attention.

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

50 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Literary, Political & Philosophical Explorations

The Dispossessed is an interesting, important work with a science-fictional setting. However, I'm not sure it functions as much of a "story" per se. Little actually happens in the book (by my admittedly uneducated standards) and characters serve more as a variety of symbols that reflect human behavior/nature and political ideas than as actors in a narrative.

If you aren't interested in deep explorations of non-authoritarian communism contrasted with capitalist and other more familiar economic/political concepts, then I'm not sure how you could enjoy this book. I'll leave the question of whether or not anyone should be interested in these examinations alone.

The anarchic, communistic Utopia at the center of the novel is one that the world has yet to produce in it's non-authoritarian essence. The more materialistic, contrasting society in the book will look very familiar to any reader within or familiar with modern America.

I couldn't help but feel that I was reading a opposing response to Ayn Rand's libertarian, objectivists "novels" that function more as enormous political speeches. Rand does seem a little more interested in her characters at times, but Lequin's superior writing skills more than compensate, making the Dispossed much more readable for anyone except the most devoted Cato Institute types.

Shorter, and with better prose, the Dispossessed is (like Atlas Shrugged) a framework for social arguments. The commentary is more subtle, complex and potentially more agreeable to the literary audience this book appears to have been aimed at.

Essentially, the Dispossessed is a set of long internal and external conversations generally involving Sheveck, the main character across two timelines. One uses a few anecdotes and (of course) conversations to illustrate Shevek's intellectual development, and the other, later timeline puts Shevek in the role of political agitator and historical narrator during events that the protagonist generates and witnesses with a scientist's contrasting idealism and curiosity. There are better plot summaries in reviews and commentary all over the internet so I won't try to explain what "happens" in the book in any more detail. Plus, I'm not sure that what happens is more than a backdrop for Shevek's conversations.

As compelling as the ideas and arguments within this book were for me, I can't recommend it to readers pursuing anything other than an academic interest either in Vietnam-era, American protest writing or the history of literary science fiction.

Personally, I find the main criticisms of capitalism, class and the war-based economy self-evident, but my reading of the book came decades after it was written. It's interesting that someone of Leguin's powerful intellect felt that these things needed to be said at the time, but the notions themselves are pretty much accepted by now as truths to anyone (at least anyone American) capable of observing the world with just a tiny bit of self-reflection.

So I can't say that I was persuaded by the Dispossessed, but as a fan of science fiction, becoming familiar with this book has informed me about the genre's history and tradition and will help me put other canonical efforts and new works in better context. For that reason, I strongly recommend it for anyone with similar interests.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fascinating, but odd

Had to read this for a class I'm taking, I'm glad I did, but it was a very unique book, not sure what I expected but it was a satisfying experience

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

OK story but odd storytelling at times

The draw is the description of the framework of the anarchist society, but this is sometimes thoughtful and sometimes incomplete. Storytelling is a long chain of sometimes laborious conversation with occasional brilliant descriptive writing. Frequently jolts the reader out of immersion with a not chronological flow, jumping around for no obvious reason. There is almost a philosophical science interest but in the end it is never really fleshed out. Worth reading due to award status, but not a sci fi classic.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

promising, but too much preachy

loved the physics and concepts of symmetry/identity vs asymetry/difference, but the social commentary/plot line was too pedantic/confused for novel form. last half especially rambling and disappointing.

8 people found this helpful