The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin

Jul 3, 2015 review (read between Jun 27, 2015 – Jun 28, 2015)

1st reading read review on Goodreads

The Left Hand of Darkness, like Babel-17 published three years prior, was written during a period when sci-fi writers were exploring new subject matter and expanding the boundaries of the genre. Its particular focus is on society; more specifically, a society with only one gender, seen through the eyes of an individual from a society more like ours. In the process of expanding this society and explaining it, Ursula K. Le Guin meticulously expands on the world and universe surrounding it.

The story takes place on the planet of Winter, an ice cold planet where the resident humanoid population are ‘ambisexual’: asexual for most of the time, but becoming physically male or female for a short period of time once every few weeks. On this planet is Genly Ai, a human (Terran) ambassador representing a collection of humanoid civilizations across many planets across the universe. His job is the convince the people of Winter to join their network of planets. It’s an interesting plot taking place on a unique world, opening up many different facets of culture to be explored. As a result, the book touches on a number of interesting concepts and ideas, such as the the androgynous nature of an ambisexual population, or how the ambisexual populate might look at an individual whose gender is ‘fixed,’ or what the culture or laws of an ambisexual society might be like.

To tie it all together, the exploration of this alien culture and other speculative thinking are convincingly packaged in an engaging story full of intrigue and tension. Genly’s journey across the frozen planet is full of interesting characters, otherworldy challenges, and charged with emotion. Even if you’re not interested in exploring the alien society of Winter, the way it’s woven into the epic journey of a human on an alien world makes The Left Hand of Darkness a book with something to offer to everyone.