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The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

Written by Ursula K. Le Guin

Narrated by George Guidall


The Left Hand of Darkness

Written by Ursula K. Le Guin

Narrated by George Guidall

ratings:
4/5 (230 ratings)
Length:
9 hours
Released:
Dec 16, 2016
ISBN:
9781501930379
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards

A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

Released:
Dec 16, 2016
ISBN:
9781501930379
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

URSULA K. LE GUIN (1929-2018) was the celebrated and beloved author of numerous groundbreaking works, such as The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wizard of Earthsea, and The Dispossessed. The breadth and imagination of her work earned her six Nebulas, nine Hugos, and SFWA’s Grand Master, along with the PEN/Malamud and many other awards. In 2014 she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2016 joined the short list of authors to be published in their lifetimes by the Library of America.


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4.2
230 ratings / 177 Reviews
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Critic reviews

  • The most famous of Le Guin's "Hainish Cycle," this is the book that put Le Guin on the map as one of the biggest science fiction writers of our time. "The Left Hand of Darkness" won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    At times the plot bogged down in a long journey over ice, but in general I loved the world building and political drama of the tale. I'd recommend this read even for non-sci fi readers.
  • (5/5)
    This was the first Le Guin book I read, and I had my doubts for the first few chapters, but as the main character embarks on his journey it picks up and after that, I couldn't put it down. The exploration of gender and climate in relation to culture is completely fascinating. A classic of progressive science fiction.

    .........

    I read it for the second time in December 2010, savoring the book a lot more, and it's just as excellent, having read much more of her work this time around. The use of "he" I find very difficult in immersing myself, so I actually did a "find-replace" and replaced "he" with "heshe" in the file ('cause I was reading it on my kindle), (and "his/her" "him/her") which kind of worked except of course when it was talking about Genly. i know it's a reflection of when she wrote it, and that she's given it a lot of thought, because in the Gethen story in "Birthday of the World", she uses "heshe".
  • (4/5)
    Just a good story. Had a lot of themes that I thought were worth exploring, and never once stepped over the boundary from exploration into preachiness. Even though the narrator was male, the story was set up so that you couldn't help but identify with both him and several other characters, despite their gaping differences. The pacing was a little erratic, but it's a book worth reading. I can see why it's a SF classic.
  • (4/5)
    A human amassador named Genly Ai comes to the planet of Winter, where gender is nonexistent.I want to start off by saying that I’m glad I read this book. I got a lot out of it, and I found Le Guin’s writing as lovely as always. However, the book made me think rather than feel, so I fear my review may seem rather critical. I don't intend to nitpick; this is just me engaging with the text.THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS isn't really about the plot or the characters; rather, Le Guin takes an idea and runs with it. She uses the entire book to explore notions of gender as a social construct, and I don’t think she does a bad job of it. I did, however, find her conception of gender a bit dated. The Gethenians are supposedly both male and female, with no predisposition towards behaviors we consider either masculine or feminine, but Le Guin still treats male as the default. Everyone is ‘he.’ There are Lords and Kings and brothers and sons. Furthermore, Ai attributes stereotypically masculine behaviors to almost everyone he comes across. When he does recognize stereotypical femininity in his acquaintances, he treats it as a negative because he views these people as male, above all else.I was willing to overlook this, given that Ai is a foreigner who comes from a culture that holds particular views on masculinity and femininity. He can’t help but impose his own worldview on everything he encounters, and his views do evolve as the book progresses. The terminology is all in translation, too, within the context of the novel; Ai may say King and son and he, but those are just his (loaded) translations of the terms the Gethenians use.But a couple of chapters in in, Le Guin begins showing us events from a local's perspective… and ‘he’ seems to hold similar views. Estraven (the local) is certainly not as extreme as Ai, but ‘he’ still displays many of the same attitudes. ‘He’ attributes many stereotypically masculine behaviors to ‘his’ fellows, and ‘he’ describes them using the same masculine terminology (which we’ve already established is in translation, if still heavily loaded towards the masculine norm).Hmmm.Now, I’ve only read this book once, and I don't hold it near and dear to my heart. I know many of you do. That said, my one-timer’s opinion is that THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS isn’t so much about a society divorced from gender-based behavioral patterns as it is about a society in which male individuals are in no way penalized or looked down upon for embracing female sexuality.It does make for some interesting reading, and Le Guin’s writing is just beautiful. But, as is almost always the case with her work, I felt too distanced from it to really commit to the ideas. I rarely feel strongly about books where the characters are just a vehicle for a concept. I want to believe in these people. I want to get caught up in their struggles. I want to bawl my eyes out when things go badly for them.I couldn’t do so here. I didn’t really care about either Ai or Estraven. The ideas in play are interesting, yes. I got a lot out of them, and out of this book. I enjoyed it. But I was never really engaged; I never felt the story.I’m glad I read this, but I don't think I'll feel the need to revisit it.(A slightly different version of this review originally appeared on my blog, Stella Matutina).
  • (4/5)
    I consider myself an avid SF reader, but have recently found myself being drawn more towards the fantasy end of the spectrum. In order to correct this trend, I decided to make more of an effort to seek out some science fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness seemed to be an ideal choice since it won both a Nebula and a Hugo when it was first published and more recently won a Gaylactic Spectrum Award with a Tiptree Award on top of that.I must admit though, it took me a little while to get into the book. But once I did, it was marvelous. Genly Ai has been sent to the planet Gethen, also known as "Winter" due to its harsh arctic climate, to persuade its inhabitants to join the Ekumen, an intergalactic federation of planets. Gethenians are physiologically unique among humans--for most of the month, they are sexless. Only during the few days in which they are in kemmer do they become male or female. The book mostly follows Genly Ai and his struggle to complete his mission, despite political intrigue and his own discomfort in a genderless world. His best hope, whether he knows it or not, is Estraven--the one person he distrusts the most.The novel's strong points are its ideas and concepts, the underlying philosophy and spirituality, human nature and politics; plot and characterization are a bit weaker, at least towards the beginning. The prose can be a bit ponderous as well. The chapters that push the plot (the little that there is) are punctuated with chapters of folklore, mythology, and field notes. Some might feel these are distracting and unnecessary, but I believe they add a significant amount of depth to the book. I loved the ice crossing (I think it was the best part) and by the end I loved Estraven (I really wish we got to know more about him, although quite a bit is implied). Even though it was slow to start, it was worth it in the end.Experiments in Reading
  • (4/5)
    This science fiction classic is beautifully written and beautifully constructed. It's world-driven and character-driven, so the experience of the book builds up over time as you get to know both. It took me a little while to feel at home in the narrative as it switched from the visiting Terran's report to the native Gethenian's diary, but once I got my bearings I enjoyed it a great deal, especially the bright, hard-edged folk tales that are larded throughout.The Terran narrator's gender essentialism -- his need to define himself by traditional masculinity, his rather stereotyped descriptions of Terran women -- was jarring to me, especially in the context of a far future narrative. However, the book is forty years old, and in Le Guin's words "the rather naive male narrator is a deliberate authorial outreach to male readers" [interview with Guernica magazine]. Perhaps I took him too literally.The Gethenian cultures are fascinating, not only for the androgyny of the people, but the societal results of living in such a bleak environment, with so few animals and so many hardships. The world has been carefully thought out, and the results are fascinating.The book is moving and thought-provoking, and succeeds in creating a powerful sense of place and landscape. Not only do I guess that the spaces visited in the book will linger in my mind, but I find that many of the cover illustrations I've seen look familiar -- the artist and I have both been to Karhide.
  • (4/5)
    Fantastic little book about the nature of gender, and the differences it might make in a society of androgynous people.

    I have to say that the journey the main character goes through, as he comes to grips with how his gender has shaped his identity, and the general loss of that aspect has shook his foundation of how he views himself was one of the best images I've found in science fiction. I much prefer these character driven pieces as opposed to the GIANT SPACESHIP WITH THE-OH CRAP REVERSE POLARITY ON THE MACGUFFIN DYLITHO-FLORICA-HERORIDE WARP DRIVE space babble.
  • (5/5)
    One of the best scifi novels ever. A very insightful story of characters in a scifi setting.
  • (4/5)
    Really enjoyed this book! The Gethenian tales interspersed through the book were really interesting. Le Guin did an awesome job, as always.
  • (4/5)
    This was my first introduction to LeGuin. I enjoyed her writing style and her efforts for portraying the dual world of the Cold War. The parallels were clear which made it an interesting reflection. I did find some passages lengthy although, surprisingly not the long trek through the ice which I found compelling thanks to her mastery of the language.I'm glad I stuck it through but not sure I will read another since I'm not usually drawn to political satires.
  • (3/5)
    This was a very interesting book. The world that Le Guin created was so different and intriguing and I really enjoyed the intricacies of the planet and it's nations. The writing was complex, yet easy to understand and follow and really sucked you in. She created this atmosphere of mystery and intrigue and I wanted to know how things would turn out. The characters we also fascinating. I enjoyed seeing their different perspectives - that of the "alien" and that of the native to the planet.

    I enjoyed the subtle themes in this novel as well. That of acceptance and change, I enjoyed the fluidity of gender and identity and how it explored the sexuality of the characters.

    Overall, I enjoyed this, but I felt like I read it at the wrong time. It was not a fast read and I had a bit of a hard time getting into it, but I can definitely appreciate this work for what it is.
  • (5/5)
    One of my all-time favorite books. I reread it every few years.
  • (5/5)
    I've become rather bitter with sci-fi over the years, as it used to be my favorite genre. But you can only read so many space operas and pretentious near futures before it gets to you a little.

    And then you decide to give an author a go because of some weird research string you were on... and it rekindles your love of why you started reading it in the first place.

    LeGuin approaches sci-fi as it should be; a thought experiment. Instead of spending pages upon pages describing the minutiae of every aspect of the future, she integrates snippets of mythology, politics, and does it in a way that you don't feel is droning on.

    There are parts that aren't very action oriented at all, and yet, they don't drag. I have no idea how she does it and am now rather enamored with this author.

    As for the book itself, it approaches more than the simple issue of gender; it's almost zen-like, with an exploration of a duality in a whole. And the main character was the type a cranky sap like me could really relate to.

    Best book I've read in a long while.
  • (5/5)
    It started slowly, and I all but despaired of it, but it built momentum, and by the end I was wholly absorbed. It is often cited as one the best SF books ever. I cannot yet make such a judgement; but I will say it is the most thoughtful SF book I have read, and has left me much to think about, especially on the topic of friendship, which has been much on my mind lately.Some thoughts on the simpler aspects of the story. Le Guin has built one of the most convincingly alien societies I have encountered in SF; I complained recently about SF authors not making their aliens alien. The people of Gethen are human, but a great deal more alien than most alleged aliens in other books. The characterisation and the plot take time to build, but both work out satisfyingly. There is some fine descriptive prose during the journey over the ice. Now for the proper review. The core of this book is the story of a friendship, a friendship forged through barriers of culture and gender and mutual misunderstanding. Genly Ai and Estraven are far apart, but eventually their minds (literally) meet. They learn to trust one another, to accept their differences, to understand one another as well as they can, to love one another. The milieu for this story of friendship across divides is a world where the humans are androgynous, and none of the assumptions, problems, prejudices (or joys) of gender are present. Le Guin described the work as a thought experiment to explore a society without men and women, only humans. The description of the workings of such a society is interesting, but not heavy handed, but I do feel that the impact of such ideas has lessened over the years, and what was new and perhaps a little shocking in 1969 doesn't quite have the same punch today. It's still good world-building, though, and provided a consistently interesting and satisfyingly alien background to the main action.One could cavil at the plot details a little: the situation of the Envoy (alone) is a little contrived, so as to generate the story, but this a very minor quibble. Overall, a very good and enjoyable read, and one that is sure to generate thought and reflection in the thoughtful reader.
  • (5/5)
    This book's concept was executed remarkably subtly for the time period in which it was written. The author seems more curious than ideological.
  • (5/5)
    It's a great thing when your main criticism of a book is that it didn't do more of the excellent stuff that it did. The central theme here of an androgynous humanity that goes into heat ("kemmer") and takes on gender characteristics briefly is explored fulsomely in terms of its physiology and psychology (both within the people of Gethen and between them and the "Envoy" Genly Ai, a traditional male who comes from space to inaugurate them into the interstellar order. The jump to sociology is made, though imperfectly--we think of sexual difference as something that breeds difficulty, mars-and-venus stuff, but the machinations of all against all and the extreme concern with a kind of inverse face ("shifgrethor")--not one's own concern with one's own prestige, but one's careful concern to avoid impinging on the prestigelessness of the other (while still living on a planet full of social injustice etc.)--make you realize with, yes, a bit of a chill ("Gethen" means "Winter" and it is a planet of ice) what it might mean not to be purpose-built to love each other physically--what it might mean for anyone to be equally a potential lover or foe, but only the latter role (barring a kind of pairbonding they do do, but that seems a largely private rather than social institution) being a permanent one. This then leading into trying to really grapple with a society that operates without our concern for binaries, where unity is their permanent obsession (a kind of felt Taoism, but really something far far more pervasive and mundane to those who live it)--"the right hand is the left hand of darkness, the left the right of light."And all of this on a planet where working together is non-negotiable for survival, and where Ai and his Gethenian friend Estraven (who he doesn't even recognize is his friend for tragically long, since the latter is trying to patiently, toughly work to make Ai's mission a success and effect the contact between planets within the constraints of shifgrethor, and Ai doesn't get it at all and just sees him as a cold, ambitious politico and a user) take their epic trek across the ice (Le Guin missing her chance to make sexy SF history by not having them sleep together, but they do talk about it and maybe I'm not getting how discouraging her choice would have been to young queer and trans SF readers in the seventies looking to find reading, finally, that tries to speak, in a way, to that part of them, or just to invent not only "soft" SF but intergalactic slash fiction.That's all great, and if the nationalist plot leaves me cold--a planet of androgynous unity fanatics/suspicious monads is not where I want to go to get my story of two mighty nations divided by a mutual hatred--we can let that pass. No, what I wanted was more culture--to visit the other nations of Gethen, learn not only about their religion (a cultural phenomenon sure but one so supersaturated with psychosocial significance that it gets deployed in the service of the main big themes, directly--we end up with the Taoist-analogue future predictors and the weird Jesus-style monopositivist cult, which plays into the plot of nations but seems basically irrelevant and out of place given the book's themes) but about their, oh, classical dance, pop music, philosophy of science (like, Ai's comment on how it's so amazing that the Gethenians came up with a concept of evolution being the only mammals on the planet is a great start, but then it just goes back to the big theme of their aloneness), publishing industry, websites. Gethen is a low-wealth place focused on survival, but it is an advanced society, and I just wanted to see Le Guin make it sing. She may not have intended to, per se--this is like an essay in fiction--but she does such a good job at that essay that it makes you want to see Gethen given a life in full.
  • (3/5)
    Strongest when Ai is moving in the communities rather than some of the world-building, still a great example of writing and the anthropology that characterizes her writing.
  • (3/5)
    A planet called Winter is populated by humanoids of a single gender that splits once a month into a female or male version in order to reproduce. An envoy from Earth journeys there to bring them into the fold of the Ekumen (the consortium of the human planets). The planet has two major governments - the Envoy leaves the one after his advocate is banished - and runs into trouble in the other. I enjoyed it - but it isn't the same level as Dune - the other joint Hugo/Nebula winner from a NW resident.
  • (4/5)
    This was the perfect winter for reading this book. I did not realize that this was a first-contact tale, but it's a first-contact set not on Earth, but on another planet, called Winter by the aliens and Gethen by the natives. There is a narrative of a lengthy journey made over a glacier, and the description and narration must have been based on research of arctic and antarctic expeditions. Elements of the story are clearly artifacts of the contemporary context when it was written: the envoy to Gethen is rejected by the mad ruler of one country on Gethen and journeys to another to see if they will establish relations. That country, Orgoreyn (the name is reminiscent of a Pacific Northwest state's name) is clearly modeled on Soviet Russia, including a Siberian gulag. (Hence the journey over a glacier.) The humans of Gethen differ from the humans of other planets in that they are neuter hermaphrodites, if you will: for 3 weeks of their month they do not exhibit sexual dimorphism, but for the 1 week of the month when they are in heat, an individual will express either male or female sexual traits, and they will vary between male and female over the course of their lives. This is the other element that is clearly an artifact of when the novel was composed, but while an interesting idea, it is never integral to the plot and it remains ancillary. While the narrative starts off slowly, this is a very sophisticated view of first-contact: there is no worldwide authority, so the envoy has to negotiate with individual countries, much as he would have to here on Earth now (despite our having the UN). Also, as with Endgame, the play & movie about the secret negotiations that led to the end of Apartheid, this narrative shows how essential developing personal relationships are to progress in diplomacy. The novel is told in alternating narration: it starts off narrated by the envoy, and then in the bulk of the center sections there is alternation with narration by the exiled prime minister he is working with, and then finally, at the end, one of those voices disappears before his death is narrated by the survivor. Finally, this edition has a prologue which is valuable for LeGuin's critical views of SF: she argues that SF is not predictive, but descriptive, which relates to those artifacts of its composition. It is rightfully a classic of the SF canon.
  • (4/5)
    Science fiction novel exploring the relationship between men and women and its impact on society through the plot of a man from Earth visiting a planet where people are androgynous. More exciting than it sounds. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Finding female authors in the science fiction genre can be a challenge (which is highly unfortunate since some of the best science fiction I've read has been by women) but for some reason it took me a while to actually pick up an Ursula Le Guin book despite how much I had heard about her. After reading this book, I kind of fell in love.I always appreciate those science fiction novels that also have something highly important to say about today's world. Despite the fact that the settings are in different times and often different planets, the parallels are still drawn and are often simultaneously enlightening and terrifying. The Left Hand of Darkness is no exception to this. Le Guin manages to both set up a whole new world in enough detail that we can really see this world as existing while at the same time making comparisons to the world we live in today. Not only do we see similarities between Winter (the planet in the novel) and Earth, but the differences are striking enough to raise questions about how our society works as well, especially on questions of gender identity.On Winter, everyone is male, until they reach a stage called 'kemmer' in which one partner basically grows the necessary parts in order to reproduce. Basically, they become female for the duration of 'kemmer' and pregnancy. This in itself was interesting, but what I found was the best part was how Genly, the envoy from Earth, reacted to this phenomenon. Not only was he fascinated at how differently sexuality played into this society than our own, but it also becomes evident that Genly has his own biases and stereotypes that he attached to the female sex, despite the fact that he is from our future (or at least that is assumed). Conversely, the Gethenians find his ideas of sex and sexuality strangely perverted and don't understand how he could possibly live his life in perpetual 'kemmer'. (Gethenians only feel sexual desire during 'kemmer' and it is often a cause of great stress.) Their ideas of monogamy are also quite different from our (American) societiy in that monogamous couples are quite rare and sometimes looked down on. Genly constantly struggles with navigating in a world so vastly different from his own not only in customs but in ideas of sexuality. This is a fairly constant theme throughout the book and it is fascinating how Le Guin's often subtle examinations of these differences can be so impactful.Overall, this book was not only a great look into a whole new imagined world, but an insightful and thought-provoking look into our own. I applaud Le Guin on this marvelous achievement and am looking forward to reading so much more of her work.Memorable Quotes"The only thing the makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.""He was after something surer, the sure, quick, and lasting way to make people into a nation: war. His ideas concerning it could not have been too precise, but they were quite sound. The only other means of mobilizing people rapidly and entirely is with a new religion; none was handy; he would make do with war.""He was a hard shrewd jovial politician, whose acts of kindness served his interest and whose interest was himself. His type is panhuman. I had met him on Earth, and on Hain and on Ollul. I expect to meet him in Hell."
  • (2/5)
    Upon finding The Left Hand of Darkness, I was thrilled to see an award winning, female author in Sci Fi. A rare thing. My first disappointment came when I discovered that she was using a male as the main lead. From there it has been downhill ever since.This book is said to be a science fiction masterpiece, so far, 55 pages into it, I don't get it. For me it is nothing more than a very long, sometimes very dry, descriptive book with no real plot to sink my teeth into. My husband, who is also reading this book is now 130 pages along, and everytime I ask him if a plot is developing yet, his answer is always "no".Not at all sure that I will pick this one up again.
  • (4/5)
    This book is sci-fi the way I like it. Sure there are aliens, but we aren't at war with them. This is a quintessential novel about a strange alien and what their strangeness tells us about ourselves.
  • (4/5)
    Interesting book, not perhaps my favourite of hers.
  • (2/5)
    Boring,confusing, no plot, great environment
  • (5/5)
    This is one of the few books I feel comfortable placing among my "favorite books" - at this point I have read it several times, and it has not lost any of the depth of the first reading. I find something new in it each time I come back to it.It is rare to find a novel that is both a well-crafted story and a well-crafted piece of science fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness is both. The society, culture, and physiology of the Gethenians is well-planned, and the detail that comes from that kind of planning is what brings them to life on the page. The story itself is also well-crafted in the English-class sense of the word - there is a depth to it, pieces you have to put together yourself, several ways to read things, and yet it all comes together in the end.The larger social implications of the story are also interesting to ponder. Not just the concept of a society without gender - as fascinating and meaningful as that is - but also the meaning of friendship, the meaning of trust, the importance of the journey vs. the importance of the end, and of course "the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question."
  • (5/5)
    Ursula Le Guin is a great story teller: the plot, characters, and premises are all very engaging. Although not an "action" tale I could not put this book down -- I really wanted to know what would happen to Ai and Estraven. This is a deep, entertaining piece of classic science fiction.
  • (5/5)
    This story involves the planet of Winter, whose inhabitants have no fixed gender. The story is told party through a report by Genly Ai, a human envoy sent to try to convince the planet to join an interstellar federation. He's our eye into one of the most fascinating and unique of alien worlds--an unreliable narrator for much of the book, who makes all the (wrong) assumptions we might. We also get diary entries by a native of the land, Estraven. Interspersed between those narratives are myths and legends that give a texture to the cultures central to the tale. This is one of the great science-fiction novels of all time that examines a lot of the issues surrounding gender, prejudice and identity--it's specifically considered one of the great feminist science fiction novels but I don't think it's at all heavy-handed but above all a involving and moving story set in a intriguing world. Le Guin is one of the best science fiction authors out there, one who is actually a fine stylist and much of the prose is a thing of beauty.
  • (5/5)
    (As usual, when I like something I don't know what to say about it, so put off reviewing till months go by till I REALLY can't think what to say on it. But in the spirit of if not reviewing at least leaving some commentary for those with similar interest in reading this book as I had...)The idea of using a story about a person like us going to a planet with no gender in order for the author to explore how gender dualism affects the way we think sounds like a very interesting thing to me, but in the end I like novels centered on characters and their relationships (probably with a little action on the side) more than ideas, so I put off reading this one. But after reading reviews (as well as picking up from comments of the author herself) and getting the idea that this in fact was, at its heart, a story about two people and how they learned to relate to one another and become friends (amidst all the cool idea exploration) I became very excited to read it.Now having finished, I can say this is indeed what the story is ultimately about, but...the amount of pages devoted to the development of this aspect (the characters' relationship) may be less than you'd think for the first half. Also, it still feels to me as if the book is more about using the characters as tools to explore its ideas than about them as people first and foremost, as I was lead to believe. We actually don't learn a lot about them, their quirks or likes or anything, besides what is applicable to what the author is trying to look at about society or our psychology and such. Still, there's a lot to understand about these characters even through just that lens. When they were interacting I was happily engaged (sucker for male friendship stories that I am...or, er...male and...other. Let's just say any relationship with a male in which romance is not an assumed inevitability), and when not it was often still at least interesting, and even had quite a bit more...actioney-scenes than I expected. (Though it's still very much more a somber, thoughtful book than some sort of rollicking adventure, even if a description of the events might almost make it sound like one.)Even if the focus wasn't quite like my personal hopes (and even if the ideas, while still extremely relevant, aren't so cool and daring as they may once have been. and even if the exploration of them is somewhat muddied by the fact the genderless characters all come off as a shade maleish rather than neither gender or both), this was still for me by far and away one of the most interesting, most memorable, and even most enjoyed novels I've read for some time. It's one of those frustratingly good stories that leave me lonely after I'm done, missing the characters I've spent so much time with and wanting them back.
  • (5/5)
    I enjoyed The Left Hand of Darkness for basically the same reason I enjoy reading Gene Wolfe: this is not plainly laid out sci-fi. You are going to need to pay attention to fully enjoy this book. LeGuin takes her time revealing the civilizations of Winter through various perspectives. An outsider, an insider, and then fictional myth (ala Frank Herbert) all take their subsequent turns doling out little tid-bits of reality. LeGuin approaches the planet of Winter via a hard science style and gives the reader an understanding of this world through linguistics, evolution, biology, politics, religion, and sociology. All these are blended together to tackle the real main difference between humans and "alien" society of Winter: sexuality. An easily digestible topic in today's modern society, but for the 60's when this book was written, I can easily see how LeGuin was pushing some boundaries. I favor the general argument that sci-fi is useful as a literary medium for spinning current issues through a fantastical lens. LeGuin does this brilliantly in Left Hand of Darkness. I look forward to reading more of her books.