Ursula K. LeGuin
Shevek is brilliant young physicist working on a theory that will allow instantaneous space travel (teleportation!). He's also an Odonian, part of a socialist anarchist society living on the harsh moon of his peoples' home planet. But moneyless settlers fighting dust and famine for survival are not overly interested in teleportation. For the sake of his research and to bridge the gulf between the society they left and the one they created, Shev takes an unprescedented journey to earth, hoping to tear down walls and trade his theory for mutual cooperation and freedom.
Woven into Shev's experiences with earth technology, style, customs, and depravity are chapters about his youth, family, culture, and the events which led to leaving his home. LeGuin's descriptions are creative and compelling, and the characters are memorable, but the best part of this book is seeing the world through the eyes of an outsider.
The childlike simplicity and trust that Shevek has, his expectation that people will do right by each other and his surprise at being cheated and manipulated harkens to the stories fondly told of Soviet times. "See, Soviet people were very kind to each other, and did not expect to be cheated. It was easy to scam them, because they didn't even think of such a thing." "In Soviet times, people helped each other, shared what they had with their neighbors. It was a community." Even so, this is not a romantic anarchist utopia; LeGuin does not sugar coat the harshness and flaws of the Odonian society. We are left with a startling picture of what happens when people focus on one aspect of human nature and stretch it into encompassing morality.
I am afraid that if I keep writing, I'll degenerate into rambling. But first, I have one last thing to say: I really want Shev's teleportation technology.
Serendipity and silkworms:
9 months ago