While the book may be labelled "Sci-Fi", Le Guin herself resisted such labelling (although the science fiction community did not: like her *Left Hand of Darkness* a few years earlier, it won both the Hugo and the Nebula Prizes; the Library of America, eschewing labelling, has published it and other Le Guin works). She subtitled some editions 'An Ambiguous Utopia', which I find a helpful hint. More clear in the print edition than in the reading is that the chapters alternate between those set on Shevek's (the protagonist's) ambiguous anarchist utopia planet of Anarres and display his development until his trip to Urras, and those chapters set on Urras, which at first seems utopian in its riches and natural profusion, whose lead country A-Io seems a lot like the US with economic inequalities enhanced (as they have been since the book was first published in 1973 or 74), and where Shevek has the resources to research his 'temporal physics'. The final chapter has Shevek returning to Anarres to an uncertain future. (As mentioned by another reviewer, longer pauses between chapters might help the listener here.)
This book is labeled "Sci-Fi" but as with most Le Guin novels it doesn't fit squarely in any genre. At one level it is "Social-Science Fiction," brilliantly imagining how real human beings might behave in a colony established on the basis of anarchism and vividly (and sometimes humorously) exposing the twisted logic of the capitalist/democracies, socialist states and autocracies from which those people came. At another level it is a love story which looks quite different in a world where sex isn't considered dirty, promiscuity isn't prohibited, and monogamous love (bonding) is therefore all the more powerful for being freely and fully chosen. At yet another level, it is a story of personal growth for a boy who feels isolated from his peers by his own genius, who is driven to serve others through his upbringing, and who has to confront the challenges and tradeoffs of maturity in the context of powerful scientific principles and unresolvable social dilemmas.
The narration was good except for a few small things: it was too difficult to distinguish which character was speaking in several places and mostly there were no pauses between sections which I imagine must be indicated in the written text by blank space. Other than that, the narrator's warm voice, steady pacing, and clarity made it easy to enjoy.
I thought this book was very well written and the structure of the story was clever. The narrator's voice was pleasant.
I was very engaged in the story until had to I stop reading halfway through when (spoiler) the protagonist sexually assaulted a woman; I couldn't get past that scene, and I can't cheer for someone who's committed that sort of act.
As I didn't finish the book, my rating is based on the first half of the novel, only.
I found The Dispossessed to be a tedious listen. The narrator was OK. I think part of the issue was a lack of drama. The book description says "give up his family and life". Unless I was sleeping during the beginning, there was not much background about his family. It was hard to feel that connection. I felt like he gave up his old way of living, but that is something most people do who move far away. As far as the threats to his life, they were mentioned, but there were no action scenes. It was simply a mention of the threat which provided no build up or suspense. There were some interesting political and socioeconomic areas of the book, but without being woven into drama they were just ideas. It wasn't until the last couple hours of the book that I felt the story was actually going somewhere. Overall I don't regret listening to the book, but I am excited to be able to start something new.
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