This story takes place a thousand
years from now in a solar system that revolves around the nearby star Tau
Ceti. "Near by" is a relative term. Light or radio waves take twelve years
to get from our solar system to Tau Ceti, so that when the ambassador from
Earth tries to contact her daughter, it takes twenty four years for her
to get her daughter's reply.
There seems to be a solution
on the way for this problem. A brilliant physicist named Shevek has come
up with a new set of principles for working with time which may make possible
the invention of radio that can communicate instantaneously across vast
Shevek lives on Anarres,
the moon of the planet Urras. Anarres has an atmosphere, but it is largely
desert. Two hundred years previously, Sherek's ancestors and many other
people had been exiled to Anarres from the home planet Urras for trying
to make a revolution according to the ideas of a woman anarchist philosopher
named Odo who dies in prison.
The dispossessed anarchists
are free to make whatever kind of society they want on Anarres and the
home planet will send them supplies in exchange for the ore that they mine.
For two hundred years Anarres had a society without bosses, prisons, police,
armies, money, marriage or elections. However the genius Shevek believes
his society is becoming self-righteous in its scorn of the home planet.
He thinks that conformity to public opinion is becoming as bad a tyranny
on Anarres as any dictatorship. So he makes contact with the university
of A-10, the wealthiest country on the home planet, whose similarity to
the United States is not purely coincidental, and explains his theories.
They invite him to come back on the next supply space ship to receive an
award and lecture at the university.
Shevek would be the first
person from his world in two hundred years to set foot on the home planet.
Many people on his own world think he is a traitor. They riot and try to
kill him as he gets on board the spaceship.
When Shevek arrives on Urras,
the home planet, he finds another set of problems. On his own world of
Anarres, his genius was not appreciated. On the home planet he is honored
but he finds his university job is a luxurious prison controlled by police
He is expected to use his
theories to produce a new weapon for the military of A-10 to make it supreme
over the other nations on the home planet. However a servant helps him
escape and then...