The Principle of Simultaneity is a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionize interstellar civilization by making possible instantaneous communication. It is the life work of Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the arid anarchist world of Anarres. But Shevek's work is being stifled by jealous colleagues, so he travels to Anarres's sister-planet Urras, hoping to find more liberty and tolerance there. But he soon finds himself being used as a pawn in a deadly political game.
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One man's initiative combined with his abstract intellectual brilliance disturbs the political stasis in two planets and may be a seed of change even beyond. The book sensitively explores the social organisation and personal experience of the anarcho-communist world in which Shevek lives. He gradually realises that the price of freedom is eternal "initiative" - opposing the 'vigilance' of those who protect the status quo. His power to influence events comes from the value of his work in theoretical science. All worlds share a quasi-religious belief that theory is the first step to technology and thus to power.
The strength of the book is the complex and convincing shades of grey in which both characters and social systems are portrayed. There are no easy solutions and even the motivation of villains is complex.
A enthralling and satisfying philosophy text presented through fiction.