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The Left Hand of Darkness (Ace Science Fiction) Paperback – July 1, 2000
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Praise for The Left Hand of Darkness
“[A] science fiction masterpiece.”—Newsweek
“A jewel of a story.”—Frank Herbert
“As profuse and original in invention as The Lord of the Rings.”—Michael Moorcock
“An instant classic.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own.”—The Boston Globe
“Stellar...A triumphant return to the magic-drenched world of Earthsea...Le Guin is still at the height of her powers, a superb stylist with a knack for creating characters who are both wise and deeply humane. A major event in fantasy literature.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Richly told...Le Guin hasn’t lost her touch. She draws us into the magical land and its inhabitants’ doings immediately.”—Booklist
From the Back Cover
Praised as a groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary's mission to Winter, an unknown alien world whose inhabitants can choose -- and change -- their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Completely embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.
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This book is, at its simplest and least descriptive, a thought experiment. What if there were a world where gender as we know it did not exist.
But that is not the half of it. It is not even close.
This book examines how nationalism can be wonderful and yet poisonous. It compares the societies of differing nation-states. It looks at humanity's role in nature. It stares unflinchingly at love in various forms and in the end, the reader has gone through a journey nearly as transformative as the one taken by our protagonist, Genly Ai.
My only true complaint stems from the idea that Genly's gender biases are so strong that he consistently labels the Gethenians as he despite having been briefed of their genderless status before beginning the assignment.
Still ignoring the pronoun confusion, this was an amazing book. It is thoughtful and thought provoking. It is wise and wonderful. And though a world as cold as Winter sounds like my own personal hell, I will revisit the characters again with pleasure.
This book was published in 1969, and LBGTQ people may find some of the ideas dated, but it remains a profound exploration of what happens when the basic traits by which one is defined in one's own society don't apply in another culture. I was surprised when I re-read "The Left Hand of Darkness" to realize it could apply to any trait - race, religion, even political affiliation.
This book sums that up quite eloquently. It explores gender in a unique and enlightening way. How we, as humans, perceive gender and how it effects our lives and ways of thinking. It explores the bonds of friendship, love, politics, and war all without the confines of gender. A fascinating read through the eyes of the "Envoy" as he struggles to survive in a toiling political climate on an alien world.
Well worth the read!
THIS is what the Nebula Award should be about. This is an amazing book. The world building is so complete, so detailed, so different, so believable, it is hard to believe that one person could have conceived of it. It almost seems as if it must really exist.
In general the beauty of the book is in the ambiance and the compelling story, but there are a few quotes that I want to share.
If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of those two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both.
I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend's voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often , so foolish and vile a bigotry.
If the universe were not expanding, the night sky would not appear to be dark. (Is that true? It seems logical, but then wouldn't people have used this argument?)
You can see that the story explores concepts that need exploration. One of the great things about science fiction is its ability to let us examine our values independent of our own lives.
Anyway, if you haven't read it, read this book.