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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le…

The Left Hand of Darkness (original 1969; edition 1969)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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9,511224304 (4.06)587
Title:The Left Hand of Darkness
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Barnes & Noble Books (2004), Hardcover with dustjacket

Work details

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

  1. 60
    Ammonite by Nicola Griffith (mambo_taxi, mollishka)
    mambo_taxi: Recommended if the whole "what if we think about gender differently" genre of science fiction appeals to you. Ammonite is much more interesting and better written as well.
    mollishka: Offworlder treks through snow and ice on planet where all of the natives have the same gender.
  2. 50
    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (lquilter)
    lquilter: Fans of either Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness or Leckie's Ancillary Justice should enjoy the other. In common, the pacing, character-centered perspective obscuring aspects of the universe, political machinations, far-future setting, and treatment of ethics; also interesting for its simultaneous foregrounding and backgrounding of gender.… (more)
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» See also 587 mentions

English (221)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  Romanian (1)  All (224)
Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
It's hard work at times, but Ursula Le Guin's sci-fi classic The Left Hand of Darkness is well worth the effort. It is very dense, building from the ground up a whole alien world complete with language, societal norms and weird names, and this certainly impacts negatively on the pace of the story and indeed, often crowds out the plot altogether. The first half of the book drags a lot for this reason. And I am always rather thrown by weird, made-up names and mannerisms, arising not out of long culture and societal norms but the mind and fancy of a writer. They always seem so silly to me; I actually find it easier to immerse myself in a fantasy world when I'm given less detail, because there's less risk of breaking suspension of disbelief than when you're given words and names like 'Genly Ai', 'Erhenrang' and 'Odarhad Susmy'.

But, if you can get past this, there's plenty of meat. Le Guin does what a lot of great sci-fi writers do; she doesn't just make a whole world for you but uses its strangeness, its otherness, to posit questions about our own societal norms. The bisexual nature of the aliens, their hostile weather, their peculiar political structures (the land of Orgoreyn, into which the protagonist travels later in the novel, is clearly influenced by the then-contemporary USSR) are all developed with the implicit juxtaposition to our own world. It could not be otherwise, of course, for we cannot help but approach the story from a human perspective, but Le Guin consciously and deftly exploits this to pose some really great conundrums and analyses. A lot of her observations are profound and often so succinct as to be tantalisingly quotable. A lot like the main characters' trek across the glacier in the second part of the novel, my impressions of reading the book were that it was a bit of a slog but the resultant insights were well worth it. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Feb 24, 2017 |
My audio re-read of Le Guin's very fine first Hugo winner was a very great pleasure. The years since its publication have not dimmed its brilliance.

( )
  orkydd | Feb 2, 2017 |
Ursula Le Guin gives us a universe, light years into the future, where humanity has morphed across many worlds and solar systems. She imagines (speculates, as in speculative fiction) these human families with new characteristics that help us interrogate our current condition, in terms of gender identity, class, power, and love. "Light is the left hand of darkness/ and darkness the right hand of light,/ Two are one, life and death, lying/ together like lovers…" (Brian)
  ShawIslandLibrary | Dec 25, 2016 |
I read this long ago. AS a paperback that was traded back to the used bookstore for some other book.
I reread it recently. Very atmospheric, good character development. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
A rereading of this science fiction classic proved to be even more rewarding the second time around.

The Left Hand of Darkness is set in the future on a distant planet called Gethen, or Winter, which is in the midst of an Ice Age. The inhabitants of Winter are human, but with a twist — they do not have two genders. Instead, they are androgynous most of the time, except when they go into kemmer, or become sexually active, at which time they may become either female or male. This simple difference has given rise to a vastly different culture than ours; the politics, social mores, folklore and day-to-day life of Winter are all disclosed through the observations of a Terran diplomatic visitor on a mission to persuade the Gethenians to join the cooperative of human-inhabited planets.

But underneath all this is a rather simple story, really, of the development of a friendship between two men who at first are literally aliens to each other, but who come to discover that their similarities are much greater than their differences. Their trek across Gethen’s Ice Sheet should be counted among the best written examples of the journey in all of literature.

The book's title comes from a Gethenian poem, which begins "Light is the left hand of darkness". ( )
1 vote sturlington | Dec 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
An instant classic
added by bgibbard | editMinneapolis Star-Tribune

» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebel, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malaguti, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Charles,
sine qua non
First words
I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.
Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.
Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal and not only political: it is individual, it is personal, it is both more or less than political. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou.
"Praise then darkness and Creation unfinished,"
A friend. What is a friend in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon? Not I, locked in my virility: no friend to Therem Harth or any other of his race. Neither man nor woman, neither and both, cyclic, lunar, metamorphosing under the hand's touch, changelings in the human cradle, they were no flesh of mine, no friends; no love between us.
The unknown, the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion. . . . But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion. . . . The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
The Left Hand of Darkness is the account of the efforts of a man named Genly Ai, a representative from a galactic federation of worlds (the Ekumen), who seeks to bring the world of Gethen into that society. The inhabitants of Gethen are sequentially hermaphroditic humans; for twenty-four days of each twenty-six day lunar cycle they are sexually latent androgynes, and for the remaining two days (kemmer) are male or female, as determined by pheromonal negotiation with an interested sex partner. Thus each individual can both sire and bear children.

A classic of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness is an imaginative masterpiece that poses challenging questions about human sexuality, sexism and the organisation of society.
Mr Ai has been sent to observe the inhabitants of the snowbound planet Winter. Like animals, its androgynous people enter phases of sexuality and can be both mother and father at different times in their lives. To Mr Ai, they seem alien, unsophisticated, confusing. A long, tortuous journey across the ice finds him losing at least some of his professional detachment, and he befriends one of their outcasts. But will he ever understand their true nature?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441478123, Mass Market Paperback)

Genly Ai is an emissary from the human galaxy to Winter, a lost, stray world. His mission is to bring the planet back into the fold of an evolving galactic civilization, but to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own culture and prejudices and those that he encounters. On a planet where people are of no gender--or both--this is a broad gulf indeed. The inventiveness and delicacy with which Le Guin portrays her alien world are not only unusual and inspiring, they are fundamental to almost all decent science fiction that has been written since. In fact, reading Le Guin again may cause the eye to narrow somewhat disapprovingly at the younger generation: what new ground are they breaking that is not already explored here with greater skill and acumen? It cannot be said, however, that this is a rollicking good story. Le Guin takes a lot of time to explore her characters, the world of her creation, and the philosophical themes that arise.

If there were a canon of classic science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness would be included without debate. Certainly, no science fiction bookshelf may be said to be complete without it. But the real question: is it fun to read? It is science fiction of an earlier time, a time that has not worn particularly well in the genre. The Left Hand of Darkness was a groundbreaking book in 1969, a time when, like the rest of the arts, science fiction was awakening to new dimensions in both society and literature. But the first excursions out of the pulp tradition are sometimes difficult to reread with much enjoyment. Rereading The Left Hand of Darkness, decades after its publication, one feels that those who chose it for the Hugo and Nebula awards were right to do so, for it truly does stand out as one of the great books of that era. It is immensely rich in timeless wisdom and insight.

The Left Hand of Darkness is science fiction for the thinking reader, and should be read attentively in order to properly savor the depth of insight and the subtleties of plot and character. It is one of those pleasures that requires a little investment at the beginning, but pays back tenfold with the joy of raw imagination that resonates through the subsequent 30 years of science fiction storytelling. Not only is the bookshelf incomplete without owning it, so is the reader without having read it. --L. Blunt Jackson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A human emissary sent to the world of Winter to bring it into a galactic civilization must find a way to bridge the gulf between his outlook and that of the natives, who can change gender at will.

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