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review 2018-06-26 16:46
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin's famous novel cannot hide its time of conception: it's clearly a work influenced by the Cold War. But without doubt it's still relevant today; I think it should be required reading, not only for Science Fiction-fans, but for everyone, especially in a time that's so busy building walls.

 

The Dispossessed is a successful though-experiment on how and where an anarchist society - or anarcho-syndicalist society, more to the point - could actually work (answer: in an isolated system with limited, but not too limited resources). Le Guin has put a lot of thought into her topic and into her ambiguous utopia, with ambiguous being the key-word here; every objection I could think of she had already covered. It's a smart book that's not as didactic as I feared, but it didn't leave me fully satisfied. My problems don't stem from political disagreement, mind you. Quite the opposite: I can agree with her too much, on too many points, and that's always bound to turn out a bit boring. I prefer books that make me bristle, leave me uncomfortable, force me to rethink my opinions. No such luck here, although that's hardly Le Guin's fault.

 

I also found the book to be less successful as an entertaining Science Fiction-story. It's dry, even for Le Guin's standard, who's never been an especially juicy author to start with. I've seen other reviewers argue that the dry tone is meant to mirror either the barren world of Anarres or Shevek's thought-processes as a physicists. Both takes sound logic to me, but don't exactly make the story more enjoyable to read. It didn't help that I'm the one SF-fan that's not at all interested in math and physics. I needed to force myself not to skip the endless passages on Shevek's work, as important as they may be.

 

That's not to say the book is badly written; it's Le Guin after all. You can find some delightful turns of phrase and even some humour here and there. But she tells her story from above, turns us readers into spectators rather than letting us experience things from ground-level. It's a veritable story-telling technique and maybe even appropriate for what she set out to do here, but I can't say I liked it very much. I missed detail. Take the food, for example: She describes how the people of A-Io like to have these big parties with fanciful meals and drinks, but never mentions what exactly it is they eat and drink. I missed immersion. She rarely lets us in on her characters feelings, into their heads. She tells us about their feelings and thoughts, but most of the time she keeps us at a distance. When she finally deems to get down into the personal POV, when her characters become more than spokespersons for her ideas – which happens a lot more often in the second half than in the first - she manages to create some poignant moments.

 

So, an important book, but not a favourite. I guess I would've enjoyed it more had I read it 20, 22 years ago, at a more impressionable age, when I was just starting to learn about Anarchism and Taoism. Of course, that's completely my own fucking fault.

 

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text 2018-06-22 21:09
Less than fifty pages in
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters - Ursula K. Le Guin,Karen Joy Fowler

And I'm giving up.   I just don't find the first essay entertaining or engaging at all, so I'm DNFing and not voting for this either. 

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text 2018-06-22 20:51
My last Hugo Related Work book
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters - Ursula K. Le Guin,Karen Joy Fowler

I'm going to try to finish tonight or tomorrow. 

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text 2018-06-10 13:11
Reading progress update: The Dispossessed - I've read 18%.
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

So far lots of political & philosophical musings and no plot.

Is there a plot? Am I curious enough to find out?

 

Characters and world(s) seem underdeveloped and liveless, mere ideals, lacking real-life complexity. Yes, a lot more can happen in the coming 82%. But using 18% (and more) of a book for introduction is really pushing it.

 

(Bis jetzt viel graue Theorie und keine Handlung.

Hat das Buch eine Handlung? Will ich das überhaupt noch wissen?

 

Die Charaktere und zwei gegensätzlichen Gesellschaften wirken bislang ziemlich blutleer, sind reine Idealbilder ohne Tiefe, Ecken oder Kanten. Klar, da kann noch viel kommen, aber 18% Setup ohne Handlung sind schon eine harte Geduldsprobe für den Leser.)

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text 2018-06-07 11:41
Reading progress update: The Dispossessed - I've read 3%.
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

For instance, this curious matter of superiority, of relative height, was important to the Urrasti; they often used the word "higher" as a synonym for better in their writings, where an Anarresti would use "more central". 

 

I love it when authors consider linguistic differences and explore how they help to construct different cultural norms and understandings.

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