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