The Hainish Cycle: Book 6
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
The Dispossessed is the sixth book in the Hainish Cycle. I read the first four, but skipped the fifth as I hadn’t loved any of the books in this series and the plots aren’t related to each other enough to make reading all of the books in the series mandatory. Checking back in for book six, once again this was an OK read with some very interesting ideas but no characters that really hooked me into the story.
The most interesting thing about The Dispossessed was the the structure. The book begins with Shevek being escorted to a space craft so he can leave his socialist/anarchist moon Annaresti to go to the capitalist mother planet Urras. As Shevek is leaving, people are throwing stones and protesting him as nobody from his moon has went back to the mother planet since it was founded. The next chapter is about Shevek as a young boy. The resat of the book alternates chapters, with one section taking place on Annaresti and progressing through Shevek’s life ending when he left for Urras, and the other chapters taking place on Urras and detailing his transition to their culture.
Shevek is a theoretical scientist. On his home world, he is limited by the needs of society, who frequently reassign him to different posts (as they do everybody) for the good of all. Also, despite it being basically government free, there is still some bureaucracy in the form of customs that prevents Shevek from publishing his best work and getting credit for it. The world of Urras is very much a world of haves and have nots. Greed is the prime motivator for everybody, and Shevek’s presence is a long game to have somebody else profit from his presence.
Despite some of the other reviews on here, I think Le Guin did a nice job of making the two worlds very different but neither one was perfect. Le Guin definitely ends up supporting the socialist world of Annaresti more than the capitalist planet of Urras, but it’s not a flawless place and some readers may come away thinking it looks awful (like maybe this one). The other planets in the Hainish series make some appearances via an embassy, but primarily this is a two planet book.
My main problem with all of the books in this series though is a lack of characters that make for really engaging reads. There’s not a group of supporting characters that are well developed in this book, with Shevek moving around so much that even people like his wife aren’t in the story very often. As for Shevek himself, he is very reactionary and I didn’t get a strong sense of him as an person. He is conflicted at times, but it’s so introspective that it doesn’t go much farther to develop Shevek’s views on things than the reader’s. I see in other reviews that some people really loved Shevek… maybe Le Guin’s writing style will be more to others taste than it was to mine.