This was a library sci-fi book club pick, and I’m not sure it’s one I would’ve finished otherwise. I know Le Guin is the Grandma of Science Fiction, and I’ve read and enjoyed her before, but this one felt like a Philosophy 101 class and I don’t think I was quite in the mood for it.
Urras is the main planet, crowded with haves and have nots and doing the normal things society does, except for an added focus on science and physics. Anarres is the moon, where several hundred years ago a bunch of anarchists ran off to start their own society based on free will and mutual support. Some things work, some things don’t, and there’s still a big focus on science and physics. Except people are terrible wherever you go, so there are great big drawbacks to both attempts at building better societies.
Shevek is a physicist, floating from assigned job to assigned job (all for the good of the society) on Annares, and doing sciency stuff when he can. He goes to Urras a refugee/pilgrim/explorer, and learns about his own society while absorbing all he can about Urras, which his people have been separated from for generations. The physicists on Urras think he’s amazing, but also want to use his theories for their own gain.
This one took me a long time to read. There are lots of philosophical tangents and discussions about the nature of philosophy and what we owe to society and each other (Chidi would love it), and then some science stuff about the nature of time, and not a lot of plot. I think part of the beauty of science fiction is what it can show us about our own worlds, and I think at another time I would have appreciated this more. But right now when the world is going mad and my own personal life is experiencing some upheaval, I’m definitely more in the mood for fluff.