Left Hand of Darkness, The by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Book Information  
AuthorUrsula K. Le Guin
TitleLeft Hand of Darkness, The
GenreScience Fiction
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Kalli 
(Apr 04, 2003)

I first read this book a year ago and did a book report on it. Yes, a book report. The reaction I got after explaining an androgynous species was pretty much what I expected. But I loved this book and characters. I give it 4 stars versus having 5 because when you first read it, the narration switches around and it may be slightly confusing. I hate it when I can't fully grasp a book the first time. But who knows? Maybe you're supposed to read a book a couple times before you fully appreciate it. I still liked it the 1st time through and could never find that book again. Finally, this past weekend, I bought it at a book store. I'm half way through and loving every minute. They way Estraven and Genly slowly connect with each other is great. You must read this book. Let the beginning unfold before you put it down, and don't let the names of the places (Gethen, Karhide, Orgoyren, Sassinoth..... ??) confuse you. By all means, its not the main theme. The Ekumen trying to get Gethen to join them is the basic underlying theme.. so don't let all the names confuse you... not that it's bad to several different names in an imaginary world.... ok, just read this marvelous story.

Submitted by Phil 
(May 27, 2002)

This is a novel for those Science Fiction readers who like to be challenged and provoked by what they read. To often in this genre we get what I call power science fiction (it has a counterpart in fantasy as well). This means that the novels are written purely to please and entertain, and not for any literary value. The characters in these novels tend to solve their problems by blasting the tar out of everything in sight; sure, this can make for an exciting read, but after you finish the book, it leaves no lasting impression on you. This is not so with 'The Left Hand of Darkness'. In it, Le Guin has crafted a compelling story with definite philosophical undertones. She uses Science Fiction not as a means to create huge explosions, but rather as a way of looking at ourselves that is difficult to do with conventional fiction.

In the novel, the protagonist, Genly Ai, is sent to the world of Winter/Gethen as the ambassador for an interstellar federation. The inhabitants of the world are gender non-specific, meaning that they change from male to female depending on a monthly cycle. As Genly travels around this world, he comes to understand and respect these people, something he had trouble doing when he first landed. Le Guin uses this premise as a means to explore gender, gender relations and prejudices.

With this novel, Le Guen has added a gem to the genre of Science Fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness is an intelligent, well written work that all Fiction (not just Science Fiction) fans should read. It may be a little slow at times, but if read with a careful eye, it is one of the few books in this genre that will leave a lasting impression on you, and maybe, just maybe change the way you view the world and your place in it.

Submitted by Ellie 
(Oct 25, 2001)

Published over thirty years ago The Left Hand of Darkness, winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1969, is one of those books that every true fan of science fiction writing should know about or at least have read once. The story follows a human emissary on his mission to a stray world called Winter/Gethen, a world where the inhabitants are gender non-specific/genderless - or both. Written around the time of the Cold War, this book explores the balances of culture and prejudice. This is not a book that packs in the action, but rather takes a philosophical approach to this strange world and it inhabitants. I read this book whilst at university, and at first it baffled me. The writing and the themes, while engrossing intellectually, take a while to comprehend, but once you've read it you'll find snippets popping up in your brain when you least expect it. This book makes you think, and think hard. I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers, or to anyone that likes their science fiction fast paced and action packed, but for anyone who likes a little bit of philosophy mixed in with their fiction, then I suggest you find this little gem and place it on your bookshelf.

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