Saturday, December 31, 2016
Merry Christmas to all, and Happy New Year!
I still have a number of books from Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle on my reading list, but I haven't seen them at my library and haven't had the time to bother asking for them to be delivered. This one however, I found in the library's book sale, apparently weeded from the collection. The Dispossessed is another of Le Guin's looks at society and its norms via SciFi. She has a knack for disassembling societal problems, winnowing them down to their core, and then rebuilding them in an artificial form so that she can examine them more clearly. In this case, she's created a twin world; two planets that revolve around each other--each the others' moon--one green and lush, the other dry and barren.
The green world, Urras, is much like ours, and 175 years ago, a band of dissidents who believe in freedom, and self rule, leave their home to colonize the dry world, Anarres, and build a new world of self rule, collective anarchy. Its a thought provoking look at pure social communism, with no centralized government, no rules, no currency, no ownership, and no laws, built around the believe that in order to be completely free, everyone must do exactly what they want, by agreeing as a society that part of what they want is to help and support one another. A collective anarchy.
After 175 years of this planet-wide experiment, Le Guin looks in at how a society like this might be faring, and compares and contrasts it with the world the anarchists left, and no longer have any contact with. The original colonists, and their children are long dead, and generations of people have been born and raised in this experimental society, completely untouched and uninfluenced by the governments and currencies of their home world.
One scientist from dry, isolated Anarres, decides that perhaps its time to re-connect with the people of Urras, and share what he has learned; the new science that he has developed. But Shevek finds that sharing and giving don't have the same meaning in a society based on currency and centralized governmental control. He also finds that having a new idea, which is normally celebrated in his own society, can be threatening, when that new idea includes reaching outside of that long closed society. Threatening to the isolationism that many on Anarres believe insulates them from the evils of Urras.
If you aren't interested in this type of outside look at anarchy, and what society means, this may not be for you, but if you can get past the preaching which underlies the story, the story itself is an interesting look at different ways of life. And some pretty hippy-dip space-time theory, which or may not, in some form, be actually pretty close to true.
Le Guin is still kickin' it at 87. She has recently released a collection of novellas entitled The Found and the Lost.
By the way, The Dispossessed is part of a series called the Hainish Cycle, but the order of this series of books, is a little loose, and from the way it sounds, not really critical. FictFact has it listed this way, why I'm not sure, as it seems to be in opposition to the advice from Le Guin herself on what order to read them in, if that is important to you in this case. For her advice, go here and search for the phrase "in what order should I read" or the word "Hainish."