LeGuin captures the soul of classic science fiction in The Dispossessed. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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We need not wonder why Ursula K. LeGuin is considered one of the greatest authors of science fiction. Old-fashioned utopian speculation mixes with solid prose and allegorical culture clash to create a classic of speculative literature.

Indeed, stories like The Dispossessed truly earn the title of speculative fiction. This book follows the story of a physicist, called Shevek, in his quest to heal old wounds among his people. Over a generation before, a group of anarchists colonized an isolated planet to escape from tension and oppression on their mother planet. While the initial passion of of their conflicts has faded, the cultural hostilities remain. Shevek's brilliant achievements in the field of physics have attracted the attention of leaders on the mother planet. When they invite him to visit their planet, a self-proclaimed utopia, and speak with their scientists, Shevek sees an opportunity to act as an ambassador to heal the rift between their worlds. However, when he arrives, he finds resistence more staunch, and more dangerous, than he expected it to be.

In theThe Dispossessed LeGuin sketches a classic utopian conflict. The reader experiences the idealized culture from the eyes of an interested outsider, allowing both character and reader to see the essential conflicts in the problematic drive for utopian society. Order on the mother planet is kept through a (what we would call) traditionalist value system. Stereotypes about the anarchist planet pervade. Shevek's intellectual values clash with his hosts, as civility degrades. Despite the complicated speculative cultures painted in this book, its story resides ultimately in the main character, whose hopeful optimism and scientific realism make him a sympathetic hero.

Science Fiction fans of all types will enjoy this classic of speculative reasoning. If you've been itching for an old-fashioned utopian struggle to challenge the intellect, this book will more than satisfy.

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S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.