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The Left Hand of Darkness: 50th Anniversary Edition Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars 1,141 ratings
Book 4 of 7 in the Hainish Cycle Series

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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

Review

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

“A towering figure in science fiction and fantasy.”—NPR

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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
1,141 customer ratings
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Top international reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars Odd, eerie, intricate, detailed, political and alien
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 23, 2017
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Martin Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Patriotism as fear of the other
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 3, 2017
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John M
4.0 out of 5 stars A highly acclaimed SF classic with many philosophical themes, particularly around gender politics
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 29, 2018
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Nicholas Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy winner
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Tim Dumble
5.0 out of 5 stars We are more alike than we think
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 3, 2018
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Dragon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 15, 2017
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David Beeson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Le Guin's best, and therefore an outstanding novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 31, 2016
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R H Warwick
3.0 out of 5 stars Sci-fi, but not as I know it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 7, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Sci Fi exploring the implications of a thought experiment on the human experience
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 1, 2019
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Mildred Crumb
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 8, 2016
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KeremA
4.0 out of 5 stars I felt like the start of the book took quite some effort ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 11, 2017
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W. Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable, but I would not call it a masterpiece
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 26, 2010
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Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sci-fi/political drama
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Mel Powell
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of ideas and excellent writing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 2, 2014
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A S Darley
5.0 out of 5 stars Cold words on a cold world
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 20, 2020
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