The Left Hand of Darkness

Paperback, 366 pages

English language

Published Sept. 16, 2010 by Ace Books.

ISBN:
978-0-441-47812-5
Copied ISBN!
OCLC Number:
53345521
ASIN:
B00YBA7PGW
Goodreads:
118028

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4 stars (57 reviews)

On the planet Winter, there is no gender. The Gethenians can become male or female during each mating cycle, and this is something that humans find incomprehensible.

The Ekumen of Known Worlds has sent an ethnologist to study the Gethenians on their forbidding, ice-bound world. At first he finds his subjects difficult and off-putting, with their elaborate social systems and alien minds. But in the course of a long journey across the ice, he reaches an understanding with one of the Gethenians — it might even be a kind of love

49 editions

reviewed The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Hainish Cycle)

Not Sure About this One

4 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think it was the best of the three Hainish novels I've read so far, and I can appreciate the fact that the theme of a gender-changing alien race was somewhat revolutionary at the time.

However, I have to admit that I had to push through this book. I've read another review that likened it to homework, and that sums it up quite well for me, too. Maybe my expectations were too high and I have read it at the wrong point in time, just like in school when you have to read something that you cannot appreciate at the moment, but strikes you as profound at a different time.

So yeah, this novel leaves me a bit stumped about what to say. I liked it well enough to not stop reading, but have to admit that it could have been half as …

Review of 'The Left Hand of Darkness' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

This is more socially-driven than plot or character. What would a society be like if people were not male or female but a sort of neuter except during each period when they became sexually active for a few days during which they became male or female at random? There are other significant differences to the way our "Western" societies work, it is up to the reader to imaging whether these were causally related to the different sexual biology.

In spite of that there are a lot of insights into our political issues, too.

Review of 'The Left Hand of Darkness' on 'Storygraph'

4 stars

Happy to have finally read something by Le Guin. I enjoyed the pseudo-epistolary structure and concept of a fully gender fluid civilization, but the book's age really shows through in the limits of how far this queerness can go (all relationships "become" heterosexual, for instance, because reproduction I guess).

I think I'm missing some important context for when this was written, as it has both a lot of vaguely anti-communist sentiment and also seems to be pulling from Catholic mission trips to East Asian countries, but I can't quite pinpoint a through line. A bubbling pot of challenging political ideas that are not so much unexplored as they are too large for a 300-page scifi novel. Very curious to check out some of Le Guin's later work, but this seems as good a place as any of, like me, you've been meaning to check her out.

Review of 'The left hand of darkness' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Absolutely loved the world, the story told, the characters, the politics, and the cultural dives.

Three stars because I just found that it was so difficult of a delivery, that it took me way too long to read. I think it's because the first half of the book was so lacking in activity, and heavily focused on abstract descriptions of things by the main narrator. Even the last half of the book which could be seen as action packed (crazy journey over glaciers), felt slow to read.

Review of 'The Left Hand of Darkness' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I can see why this is a well-regarded book. Its strengths, like many classic science fiction novels, is in the setting, in the way alien ideas are presented in a way that reflects modern life today. This is a story of making an alien culture feel more human than our own. I was left wondering if a society like theirs could somehow improve upon the ills of our own world or if it would only make things worse. While I didn't care much for the slow plot and the cast of characters, I was impressed by the philosophical implications of their society and I'm sure it's the sort of thing I will think of for years to come.

See my full review at my blog: strakul.blogspot.com/2018/04/book-review-left-hand-of-darkness-by.html

Review of 'The left hand of darkness' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills, rivers, and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plow land in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession. . . . Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, …

Review of 'The left hand of darkness' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I love the way Ursula LeGuin builds alternate worlds. She makes them differ from ours in meaningful ways, she changes things we take for granted and explores the consequences of the differences well. I want to read more of her sci-fi work.

The Left Hand of Darkness was a great book, all in all. It tells the story of an envoy of an interplanetary cultural and economic league, called the Ekumen, to the planet called Winter (or Gethen, by the locals), whose inhabitants, though humanoid, don't have a set sex: they go in heat once a month, and then their body temporarily chooses a sex practically arbitrarily. The same person could perform as male one month, and then get pregnant the next. The planet is also much colder than Earth, and thus practically in perpetual winter.

Genly Ai, the envoy, is caught in a very intricate web of intrigue and …

Review of 'The Left Hand Of Darkness' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

On rereading this recently, I was struck by two things; one was how well this book has aged. Granted, it has many flaws, most of which LeGuin addresses herself in forwards to some newer additions. It's oddly heteronormative, and takes male for default in a way which is just annoying, and can only partly be attributed to Genly Ai's narrative voice. However, LeGuin acknowledges these faults and in fact has written several short stories trying to address them, so I'm just going to mention them and let them go.

But I think the book has aged well because, although first published in 1969, this book remains one of the most creative re-imaginings of gender in the field of SF. It's still the yardstick by which we measure other books on the topic.

The second thing I was struck by, though, was LeGuin's depiction of cold. Approximately the last third of …

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