Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Dispossessed

The Principle of Simultaneity is a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionise interstellar civilization by making possible instantaneous communication. It is the life work of Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the arid anarchist world of Anarres. But Shevek's work is being stifled by jealous colleagues, so he travels to Anarres's sister-planet Urras, hoping to find more liberty and tolerance there while at the same time hoping that his visit will uproot entrenched attitudes on his home world and ensure the permanence of revolution as the organising principle of evolution there by availing of the choices offered in a society based on individual liberty.

The Dispossessed was one of those novels everyone had read it would seem - except me. Finding a copy on the bookshelf recently I tore into it with all the expectations I have for good sci-fi and came away a little peeved. The book is entralling in the same way that a good Star Trek episode is, the worlds it creates are remindful of the brief sketches worlds and their histories are given on Star Trek. You are given anecdotes and traces of cultures without any real solid background, the focus is on individuals rather than unleashing the massive potential that is there to explore the inter-realtions between various brief ideas. There is not enough reality in it to keep you enthralled. This isn't Neal Stephenson by any step of the imagination, its that genre of Sci-fi I always avoided. The themes and the questions raised were interesting, such as the emergence of personal fiefdoms amidst the world of academia where Shevek does hsi work, as was th staidness of iniative that seemed to develop amongst the anarchists so given were they to communality. But there was really just the tentherhooks of sympathy with the characthers to pull me through to the end. I thought this would be Ken McLeod type stuff, or even the inkling of a cyber punk future but no...I guess I'll have to look somewhere else.

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