The Dispossessed - An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)
Spine Front Cover Book Details
Ursula K. Le Guin
Publication Date 1986
Format Leather-bound (215 x 145 mm)
Publisher The Easton Press
Genre Science Fiction
Product Details
Series Masterpieces of Science Fiction
No. of Pages 341
Paper Type Acid-neutral paper
First Edition No
Personal Details
URL This book on
Rating 9
No. of Reviews 65
Frontispiece/Illustrator Pat Morrissey
Introduction/Foreward Frederik Pohl
Original Details
Original Publisher HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Original Publication Year 1974
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, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.
Collector's Notes

When The Dispossessed was published in 1974, Ursula K. Le Gum had already won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction Convention for The Left 1-land of Darkness, published in 1969. She had also won the following awards: Hugo Awards in 1973 for her novella "The Word for World Is Forest," and in 1974 for her short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," the Nebula Award in 1974 for her short story that pro vided background for the The Dispossessed, "The Day Before the Revolution," the Boston Globe Horn Book Award in 1969 for the first book in her fantasy trilogy, A Wizard of Earthsea, the Newberry Silver Medal Award in 1972 for the second, The Tombs of Atuan, and the National Book Award in 1973 for the final book, The Farthest Shore.

No one was surprised, then, when The Dispossessed won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. What was surprising was the significant departure The Dispossessed represented from Le Gum's earlier work. It was frankly political. Science fiction, which is more fascinated by problem-solving than by political systems, has seldom taken a political novel to its heart; nevertheless this did not prevent The Dispossessed from winning the top awards.

The Dispossessed is subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, and perhaps it was the ambiguity of the novel's political stance that kept it within the intuitive boundaries that surround science fiction and that have raised questions about such works as H. G. Wells' propaganda novels, Zamiatin's We and Orwell's 1984. Although Le Gum's sympathies are engaged by the anarchists of Annares, she recognizes what they have given up in their pursuit of equality, and although she exposes the inequalities and unfairness of the capitalistic parent world of Urras, she also recognizes its beauty, color, and freedom.

Annares is a nearly barren satellite of Urras, virtually a twin world. Centuries earlier, the followers of Odo (the protagonist of "The Day Before the Revolution") accepted an offer to be transported to Annares. Since then they have struggled to maintain their anarchistic principles on a world that is a barely habitable desert.

Shevek, an Annares scientist, has had to endure the conformity and jealousy of his society to work toward the ansible. On Urras he finds the answer that allows him to complete it and make possible instantaneous communication and a galactic civilization that would become the Ekumen. Le Guin suggests that neither Annares nor Urras has the answer to human needs; the best parts of both are necessary.

The Dispossessed takes place in a future history that Le Gum uses for many of her novels, beginning with her first, Rocannon's World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), and City of Illusions (1967). An older civilization from the planet Ham seeded humans on many planets, including Earth and Gethen (of The Left Hand of Darkness). The Dispossessed returns to an earlier period in the Hainish universe before the invention of the ansible.

Le Gum was born in 1929, the daughter of Alfred Louis Kroeber, a prominent anthropologist at the University of California, and Theodora Kroeber, author of such books as Ishi in Two Worlds. Le Gum's fiction exhibits her childhood background around anthropology, but it is influenced as well by her college work in the humanities (B.A., Radcliffe, M.A., Columbia) in romance languages, particularly French.

In addition to her writing, which has brought her international recognition, she has taught French at Mercer University and the University of Idaho and has instructed at writing workshops. She was guest of honor at the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention.

Frederik Pohl, who has written the introduction to The Dispossessed, has done almost everything there is to do in science fiction except illustrations. He has been a fan, agent, magazine editor, book editor, critic, and lecturer. But most of all he has been a writer, beginning in the 1930s and gaining a major reputation in the early 1950s with a series of satirical stories and novels, some of them in collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth. The Space Merchants, first serialized in 1952, has never gone out of print. His career took a new turn in the 1970s with the publication of the award-winning novels Man Plus, Gateway, and JEM, and his creation of new ideas and fictional forms for them has not slowed down since.