Winner of Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell awards.
This is definitely more of a
"thinking man's book" than an adventure. It delves into social and
political questions by presenting us with twin planets with very different
social systems. It also deals with matters of individuals in society, most
prominently with an extraordinary individual [a top theoretical physicist] and
his relationship with society.
The physicist, Shevek, comes
from Anarres; the planet colonized 200 years previously by anarcho-communists.
It is a world based on communal living ideals, without formal government. This
is not presented as the inborn inclination of children, but something parents
teach, as is required with many social skills. Anarres, like those countries
on Earth which had revolutions that were supposed to replace capitalism, began
as a less abundant place than the other planet, Urras. Le Guin certainly has
issues with the capitalism represented by Urras, but does not present Anarres
as a paradise without its own problems.
Shevek believes in the ideals
of Anarres. Yet, he is driven by his need to move physics to the next level.
When unable to do this on Anarres, he tries to do it on Urras. He also thinks
he may be able to introduce some of Anarres' ideas to the people of Urras.
Once on Urras he finds himself in a strange and bewildering society - a society
inclined to use his physics to ends that conflict with his beliefs. This
places him in the position to be our fulcrum to pry open the questions to be
Readers who like to ponder
the deeper issues of society through SF should especially find this book
interesting. It should also appeal to readers interested in individuals
dealing with their personal beliefs in difficult situations. One can also
conclude from the list of awards it won that it is generally an excellent SF
novel.ike a detective story satire mixed
with Adams' usual social commentary humor.