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

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hainish Cycle (4), Hainish Cycle, Chronological (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,562254386 (4.06)680
  1. 70
    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. 51
    Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) 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)
  3. 30
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (andomck)
  4. 20
    Shadow Man by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Explorations of gender beyond the gender binary
  5. 31
    Embassytown by China Miéville (santhony)
    santhony: Science fiction as seen through the prism of anthropology and sociology.
  6. 10
    Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (andomck)
    andomck: Scientists exploring an alien environment
  7. 10
    Commitment Hour by James Alan Gardner (MyriadBooks)
  8. 10
    A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg (LamontCranston)
  9. 10
    Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Ooku: The Inner Chambers explores a feudal Japan where women rule the country after a devastating plague kills the majority of the male population. Gender roles are inverted, and Ooku: The Inner Chambers follows the story of a young man who becomes a concubine to the Shogun of Japan shortly after she comes to power.… (more)
  10. 11
    The Godmakers by Frank Herbert (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two radically different novels about the business of reclaiming/rediscovering/reuniting with planets that were lost during a great stellar war.
  11. 00
    Glory Season by David Brin (ultimatebookwyrm)
    ultimatebookwyrm: Two books in the nature of a thought experiment with regard to gender and social construction. Slow, methodical reads that aren't afraid to say a few things that won't be popular.
  12. 00
    Dark Water's Embrace by Stephen Leigh (MyriadBooks)
  13. 00
    A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski (Konran)
  14. 11
    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (WildMaggie)
  15. 33
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (andomck)
    andomck: Science Fiction involving "unorthodox" procreation
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» See also 680 mentions

English (247)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  Romanian (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (253)
Showing 1-5 of 247 (next | show all)
I need to reread this because I thought it was all right but I read it as a younger sci-fi fan who had read later sci-fi first. ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
The book deserves better than four stars. It s quite a masterpiece and has thrilling scenes. But, I was disconnected at a few parts, and didn't really appreciate all of the side lore. Some pieces were introduced too early for me and took me out of the story.

I think reviews and description of the novel led me to believe it to be more sexually and gender - wise enlightened. My expectations were not met. Honestly, it seemed rather sexist. Female kemmer as seductor; Genly's description of women reminded me of the decade in which the book was written; and generally the overuse of male pronouns and overlay of feminine features on men. One could argue that the male protagonist/narrator simply defaults others to his own sex, but it is weird to me since female features seem to dominate human sexes (E.g. nipples). X chromosomes suggest that female pronouns would make more sense. ( )
  CassandraT | Sep 23, 2018 |
Le Guin is an expert at world-building, and this one, Gethen or 'Winter', is just different enough from our world that the differences are essential, the similarities striking and, in a way, prescient. An Envoy is sent to a far-off planet to solicit the populate with inclusion in an intergalactic association of humanity, and he finds the humans different in very disconcerting ways. For one thing, they are neither male nor female, but adopt the role and attributes by a sort of mutual negotiation during what is called kemmering - essentially estrus. Each person can play either role. The various nations or societies on the planet are not quite at war, but very much at odds in behavior, language and even cuisine, which is odd, since they face the same harsh winter climate - Gethen exists in an ice age.

Aside from the psychological journey of the Envoy and his most supportive native, the story carries and highlights the ills of our own world - the attraction of cant, the suspicion of the other, the impact of climate change, the inevitability of uncertainty, the beauty of even the harshest conditions. It is definitely reflective of our time, in spite of its 1969 copyright date. ( )
  ffortsa | Sep 18, 2018 |
Past me gave this book two stars, what the hell? I think I may have had it confused with The Dispossessed (which I don't remember much about, so don't ask what I disliked about it).

Anyway this book is fantastic.

It does get into a bit of grating gender stereotyping (Men are from Mars type stuff), but you can also chalk that up to the preconceptions of the narrator.

Amusingly, it also works quite well to read this after a bunch of Iain M. Banks. (It's basically a Culture novel.) ( )
1 vote wirehead | Sep 3, 2018 |
Absoluta decepción y aburrimiento. Lo siento.
Yo no era lector para este libro, supongo.

Lee mi reseña completa aquí. ( )
  LuisBermer | Sep 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 247 (next | show all)
An instant classic
added by bgibbard | editMinneapolis Star-Tribune
 

» Add other authors (89 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
Heinecke, JanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malaguti, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miéville, ChinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stege,GiselaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thole, C. A. M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Charles,
sine qua non
For Charles, sine quo 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.
From the Archives of Hain. Transcript of Ansible Document 01-01101-934-2-Gethen: To the Stabile on Ollul: Report from Genly Ai, First Mobile on Gethen/Winter, Hainish Cycle 93, Ekumenical Year 1490-97.

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. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.
Quotations
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.

VIRAGO EDITION:
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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