|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.