Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed (1974)

The Dispossessed is a political sf novel set in a double-planet system. The story contrasts the societies of Urras, the mother planet, which "just growed", and Anarres, the colony, whose founders planned an anarchistic commune. Like the best utopia-dystopias, both societies have good and bad points, which gradually become clear over the course of a long story.

The story focuses on Shevek, an Anarresti physicist, who tries at whiles to develop a general theory of Time, to re-unite the estranged societies of Urras and Anarres, and to find some happiness for himself. In his struggles while growing up to find his place in society, we see the conflict in Anarresti culture between individualistic anarchy and communitarianism. He tries to do intellectual work that few or no others can do, and is accused of "egoizing", wasting society's resources with inutile frivolities, and so forth; later, he joins with others, philosophers and creative artists whose efforts are suppressed by rigid custom in a society that thinks it has done away with laws.

That's a sketchy outline, with few or no spoilers beyond the first couple of chapters. There's a deep, complex plot here, with many well-developed characters, two fully-developed societies and several sketchy ones, and plenty of vivid scenery. I highly recommend it. (12/97)

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