Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Dispossessed current cover The Dispossessed:
An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)

Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards

current Harper Prism paperback - 387 pages
cover art by Danilo Ducak (left)

1970s Avon paperback - 311 pages (right)
Dispossessed 1970s cover

From the back cover of the current paperback:
       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 ... to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

From the back cover of the older Avon paperbacks:
...the spellbinding story of Shevek, a brilliant physicist who single handedly attempts to re-unite two planet cut off from each other by centuries of distrust.
       Anarres, Shevek's homeland, is a bleak moon settled by an anarchic utopian civilization; Urras, the mother planet, is a world very similar to Earth, with is warring nations, great poverty, and immense wealth.  Shevek risks everything in a courageous visit to Urras - to learn, to teach, to share.  But his gift becomes a threat...and in the profound conflict which ensues, Shevek must re-examine his philosophy of life.

Read for group discussion on July 25, 2001

Amy's Summary:  Ursula K. Le Guin - The Dispossessed

The two planets Anarres and Urras are moons of each other, but there is little communication between them.  This book tells of their different societies through the eyes of a physicist, Shevek.  It shows how politics can get entwined with scientific discovery.  Chapters alternate between the story of Shevek's life on Anarres, and his time on Urras as a guest of Ieu Eun University.

Shevek's theory of temporal physics, which he wishes to share with all of humanity, will lead to the invention of the ansible, a device that permits communication without any time interval between two points in space, even if the points are light years apart.

Annares is a dry, marginal world settled by anarchist followers of Odo who left Urras over a century and a half ago.  The Anarresti have little government, no established religion, unique computer derived names, a created language, and few possessions.  People are taught to not "egoize" and to condemn profiteering.  Most want nothing to do with Urras.  Annares is a mining colony of Urras.

Urras is a lush, green world, more like our own.  There are a number of separate countries, some at war.  Shevek is in A-Io, which is a capitalist society where men and women are unequal in status, and there's a huge gap between the rich and the poor.  The rich are decadently wealthy, and the poor are unemployed and holding demonstrations.

summary written by

Dispossessed 1991 cover

The Dispossessed:
An Ambiguous Utopia

1991 Harper Prism paperback - 387 pages
cover art by Kinuko Craft (left)

1980s Avon paperback - 311 pages (right)

Dispossessed 1980s cover

How we each rated this book
Dan 9 Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 9 Barb 9
Aaron - Cynthia 9
Jackie - Ron 10

Our book group has also read the following books by Ursula K. Le Guin:
-- The Lathe of Heaven  in July 1994
-- The Left Hand of Darkness  in March 1995
-- The Earthsea "trilogy"   in July 1998
-- The Telling   in May 2004

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-    )is an important US writer of science fiction and fantasy.

1972 Newbery Honor Book for The Tombs of Atuan
1969 Nebula Award for novel for The Lefthand of Darkness
1970 Hugo Award for novel for The Lefthand of Darkness
1973 Hugo Award for novella "The Word for World is Forest"
1974 Nebula Award for novel for The Dispossessed
1974 Nebula Award for short story "The Day Before the Revolution"
1974 Hugo Award for short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"
1975 Hugo Award for novel The Dispossessed
1988 Hugo Award for novelette "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight"
1988 World Fantasy Award for novella "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight"
1990 Nebula Award for novel Tehanu
1995 Nebula Award for novelette "Solitude"
1995 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement
1996 Retrospective Tiptree Award for The Left Hand of Darkness
1995 Tiptree Award for "The Matter of Seggri"
1997 Tiptree Award for "Mountain Ways"
2002 World Fantasy Award for novel The Other Wind
2005 PEN Center USA Children's literature award for Gifts

A Wizard of Earthsea was awarded the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Excellence in 1969.  The Tombs of Atuan was an Newbery honor book.  The Farthest Shore was the National Book Award Winner for Children's Books in 1973.

Earthsea series
Le Guin's Earthsea fantasy books are A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), Tales from Earthsea (collection of 5 stories, 2001), and The Other Wind (2001).  The novella "Dragonfly" in the anthology Legends (1998) is a prequel to the novel The Other Wind (2001).

Hainish series
Many of Le Guin's early works are science fiction set in the Hainish universe, where descendants of people from the planet Hain inhabit the Galaxy.  The series, which spans 2500 years of future history and features the interstellar Ekemen, includes the books Rocannon's World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), City of Illusions (1967), The Lefthand of Darkness (1969), The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974), and The Telling (2000).

Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995) is comprised of four Hainish connected novellas.  "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" (1971) and "The Word for World is Forest' (1972) are other novellas of the Hainish sequence.  Six out of the eight stories in the collection The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (2002, includes "The Matter of Seggri" and "Solitude") are set in the Hanish worlds of the Ekumen.

Orsinia books
Orisinan Tales (1976) and Malafrena (1979) are fantasies set in the 19th century in a fictional European country.

Annals of the Western Shore YA series:
--Gifts (2004)
--Voices (2006)
--Powers (2007)

Other works
The Lathe of Heaven (1971) is a classic SF novel of alternate worlds and the problems of playing God.  In it a man's dreams can create alternative realities.  The Lathe of Heaven was made into a PBS made-for-TV movie in 1980 starring Bruce Davison, Kevin Conway, and Margaret Avery.  It was remade in 2002 with James Caan, Lukas Haas, Lisa Bonet, and David Strathairn.  (See the 1980 film - webmaster recommendation).

Always Coming Home (1985) explored the matriarchal society of the Kesh through prose, verse, drawings, and music.

A Very Long Way from Anywhere Else (1976) is a short young adult novel.  The Beginning Place (1980, also titled Threshold) is a young adult fantasy in which two adolescents pass through to another world.

The Eye of the Heron (1983) is SF.

The Hugo winning novella "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973) is a tale about the cost of the good life, a moral lesson about the funding of Utopia.

Lavinia (2008) is a novel set in ancient Italy based on character in The Aeneid.

Le Guin has also written number of other works -- essays, poetry, and prose -- including some for children.  This is a incomplete list, a sample of a few of these, there are more.  Sixty Odd (1999) contains 69 poems.  Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989) is non-fiction, essays and reviews.  The Catwings series - Catwings (1988), Catwings Return (1989), Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings (1994), and Jane on Her Own (1999) - are children's fantasies.  Tom Mouse (2002) is a children's picture book.

Short fiction collections
Le Guin's short fiction is collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975), Orisinan Tales (1976), The Compass Rose (1982), Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (1987), Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand (1991, mainstream stories), A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (1994), Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995), Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (1996), Tales from Earthsea (2001), The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (2002), and Changing Planes (2003).

Aaron's book review of The Telling on Fantastic Reviews
Our book club's page for The Earthsea Trilogy
Our book club's page for The Telling
official web site of author Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin - Wikipedia
Ursula K. LeGuin's Magical World of Earthsea
Strange Horizons: Review of The Telling people | Ursula K. Le Guin
Science Fiction Weekly Interview

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This page was last updated October 17, 2008