The Left Hand of Darkness: 50th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)

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The Left Hand of Darkness: 50th Anniversary Edition By Ursula K. Le Guin, David Mitchell (Foreword by), Charlie Jane Anders (Afterword by) Cover Image

The Left Hand of Darkness: 50th Anniversary Edition (Paperback)

By Ursula K. Le Guin, David Mitchell (Foreword by), Charlie Jane Anders (Afterword by)


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Staff Reviews

I picked up Ursula K. Le Guin’s landmark 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness having only heard praise over its content, execution, and modern relevance. It did not disappoint. I went for it because I fondly remembered reading Le Guin as a youngster, and the themes of gender identity and otherness are some of my favorites that science fiction explores. Also, I like ice planets. 

The book is a complete gem. Le Guin maps the story, alternating between chapters that focus on the first hand account of Genly Ai, an envoy sent to understand and persuade the people of Gethen, and excerpts from the nation of Gethen’s history and lore. This allows the reader to understand the people of Gethen as the protagonist does. It's a novel I couldn't put down. 

The Gethen people are androgynous and only demonstrate sexual attributes once a month. At fiirst, Genly Ai deems this as absurd, but as he experiences the land more and forges a bond with the fallen prime minister, Estraven, he gains a new understanding.

As a work from 1969, Le Guin’s handling of her central themes is impressive. Yes, there are some dated aspects of the book, but overall I was moved by the respect and attention the book gives to gender fluidity and androgyny, especially in the world of science fiction, where the hyper masculine archetype often dominates. And finally, the book offers a great story, one whose influences I can identify in other subsequent works.

— James


Ursula K. Le Guin’s groundbreaking work of science fiction—winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

A lone human ambassador is sent to the icebound planet of Winter, a world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants’ gender is fluid. 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 strange, intriguing culture 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.
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. She was the bestselling author of the Earthsea books and the Hainish books, including The Left Hand of Darkness, which was awarded both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards. With the awarding of the 1975 Hugo and Nebula Awards to The Dispossessed, she became the first author to win both awards twice for novels. She passed away in 2018.
Product Details ISBN: 9780441478125
ISBN-10: 0441478123
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: March 15th, 1987
Pages: 368
Language: English
Series: Remembering Tomorrow
Praise for The Left Hand of Darkness

“[A] science fiction masterpiece.”—Newsweek

“A jewel of a story.”—Frank Herbert

“As profuse and original in invention as The Lord of the Rings.”—Michael Moorcock

“An instant classic.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own.”—The Boston Globe

“A towering figure in science fiction and fantasy.”—NPR

Coverage from NPR