22 January 2013 Leave a comment
Author: Ursula Le Guin.
Summary: Shevek is a brilliant physicist from the austerely isolationist and anarchic planet Anarres working on the Principle of Simultaneity which could revolutionize interstellar civilization by making instantaneous communication possible. But Shevek’s life work is threatened by jealous colleagues and so, in the face of intense hostility, he makes the unprecedented journey to the rich mother planet, Urras, hoping to find more tolerance there. But the aggressive capitalism of Urras suits him no better than the anarachism of Anarres and Shevek soon finds himself a helpless political pawn.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Review: First of all, i would like to clearly state that i very much enjoyed this book. It was interesting, and showed ideas, points of view and characters that are absent from most popular fiction. It was a delight to read about these things.
That said, this book did not excite me. There was nothing driving the book, or the reader, along. The plot was minimal, and not used in any effective way. There was simply no catalyst to get the story going. It meandered along with nothing but the fact that i found the subject matter interesting to keep my attention.
It’s about two worlds, two societies. The first, on Anarres. The second, on Urras. The former being the moon to the latter. Almost 200 years previous a group of people left Urras and created their own ‘anarchist’ (inverted commas will be explained gradually as you read the book) society on Anarres. One man, Shevek, not fully satisfied on Anarres, leaves for Urras hoping for the best.
The story’s chapters alternate between Shevek’s arrival and subsequent adjustment to life on Urras and his life growing up on Anarres and the events leading up to his departure. This switching time and location was interesting in that you get to discover and learn about both worlds gradually. I can’t decide if this fact helped or hindered the book’s lack of excitement, perhaps a little of both. What was interesting about the alternating narrative was that the book concludes both just as Shevek decides to leave Anarres and just as he is arriving back. The juxtaposition of his thoughts, feelings and opinions at these two points in time was the most enjoyable part of the whole book for me, i think.
None of the characters were particularly likeable, which is normal for me, but in this book it was a disadvantage to an already lacking story. I had nothing to hold my attention and no one to root for. In fact throughout most of the book, the only thing i really took an interest in was the concepts; people’s thoughts and ideas, feelings and motivations. On both planets, but mostly on Anarres. To see a society that from the face of it seems an anarchic paradise (save for the physical condition of the planet) be described in details slowly enough to gradually allow the reader, along with the main character, to realise that it’s just not as simple and idyllic as it seems.
Overall, a very interesting, if not interest-grabbing book with some perspectives severely lacking in most popular fiction. I would recommended it.