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The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  54,085 ratings  ·  3,234 reviews
A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an 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 ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Ace (first published 1969)
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Aubrey Absolutely. Le Guin said herself that, while the books of the Hainish Cycle are certainly interconnected, they contradict each other more than they…moreAbsolutely. Le Guin said herself that, while the books of the Hainish Cycle are certainly interconnected, they contradict each other more than they build each other up.(less)
Nuno Ribeiro No book should need an introduction, to be understood. This is no exception. But some do have very interesting texts, that get published along with…moreNo book should need an introduction, to be understood. This is no exception. But some do have very interesting texts, that get published along with the main body. A good classic example is the preface of "Brave New World", that one should defenitely avoid reading before the actual book. But is a great insight into the author's thinking. And this is one of the most exciting readings when it comes to reflecting about sci-fi. You should read it, if you love sci-fi, if you want to know more about Ursula, or simply if you are curious. It is a wonderful text. (less)
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The question that permeates Le Guin's 1969 sensational for its time novel about the ambisexual society is what remains once the male and the female labels are stripped away? What is underneath the labels - is it simply humanity?

'Androgynous' - Which is how I could not help but picture the Gethenians.
"A man wants his virility regarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard and appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respecte
I've become rather bitter with sci-fi over the years, as it used to be my favorite genre. But you can only read so many space operas and pretentious near futures before it gets to you a little.

And then you decide to give an author a go because of some weird research string you were on... and it rekindles your love of why you started reading it in the first place.

LeGuin approaches sci-fi as it should be; a thought experiment. Instead of spending pages upon pages describing the minutiae of every
They should do away with these tags - science fiction, speculative fiction and all them other clever maneuvers designed to erect barriers between the strictly literary and the mainstream - when it's Atwood who is writing or a Le Guin. Woe betide anyone who begs to differ. This deeply entrenched contempt of the other and this instinctive loathing of anything we fail to understand after a perfunctory once-over are not only the center of the man-made hullabaloo of gender but the root cause of all f ...more
Ian Agadada-Davida
No Mere Extrapolation

"The Left Hand of Darkness" is a work of science fiction published by Ursula Le Guin in 1969.

At the time, it sought to differentiate itself from most other science fiction in two ways.

Firstly, as Le Guin explains in a subsequent introduction, it didn’t just take a current phenomenon and extrapolate it scientifically into the future in some predictive or cautionary fashion.

Secondly, it explored the nature of sexuality as a subject matter from a sophisticated, feminist point

They say that The Left Hand of Darkness is a landmark in the field of science fiction literature . Albeit such typecasting seems to be unfair simplification and trivialization since that novel goes much further and deeper than any other of that genre . In view of her interests including cultures , ecology , anthropology , Zen philosophy LeGuin produces humanistic science fiction , focused on creating startling social models and analyzing living in them people . That way The Left Hand of Dar
The meagre 2* is more a reflection of my enjoyment rather than an objective measure of the book (it has won prestigious awards). It wasn't to my taste, and that was exacerbated by mismatched expectations. It is not really sci-fi, the gender and sexuality were a bit of a side-show, leaving curious combo of political intrigue and Boys' Own tale of derring-do in an inhospitable climate. The setting is another planet in the future, but right from the start, mentions of rain and reign contributed to ...more
J.G. Keely
The term 'Speculative Fiction' was developed out of a desire by some authors to separate themselves from the more pejorative aspects of the Sci Fi genre. Harlan Ellison famously hated the term 'sci fi', scorning the implication that his stories had anything in common with Flash Gordon or Lost in Space.

In Speculative Fiction, technology is not there to facilitate the plot, or to dazzle readers with fantasy, but to provide the author with an opportunity to explore the human mind in unexpected, inn
The Should I Read This Book Quiz: Ursula Le Guin is considered a Very Important science fiction writer for her anthropological chops, and The Left Hand of Darkness her classic in which a lone representative of the Ekumen is sent down to a heretofore un-contacted planet to convince its denizens to join this interplanetary human collective. Genly Ai’s mission is complicated by his inexperience with their society—the most significant difference with his own being that all Gethenians are neither mal ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label
Book #18: The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K Le Guin (1969)

The story in a nutshell:
A highly unusual and controversial book at the time of its release (but mo
Lit Bug
What is the first thing we ask when a child is born? - GENDER

The six-letter word, not the three-letter word "sex" of the child - because gender involves our perception of what the child will be, our expectations of what roles the child will perform in the future - the life of the child is determined right away when we ask this question. As Judith Butler puts it, Gender is Performance.

But imagine a world where genders can be changed at will - an androgynous world where humans remain in neuter g
This book is a science fiction classic. To fans of feminist and political science fiction, it is more than a classic - it is a touchstone, a founding document, a rallying post.

It follows Genly Ai, an envoy from the Ekumen (a perhaps-utopian union of worlds) to the planet Gethen, where the entire habitable zone of the planet has a climate at the extreme cold end of human tolerance - and where Gethenian natives lack biological sex and gender, but can unpredictably develop either male or female app
I hated the harsh, intricate, obstinate demands that he made on me in the name of life.

This is no The Dispossessed, a judgment equal parts quality of the work and personal taste of the reader, unfair and yet true if one keeps in mind that, regardless of individual ratings, I regard Le Guin as a gift to literature. Plenty are the authors who forge ahead with little regard for the reader, nearly ubiquitous are the ones who stay stolidly put in the kiddy pool out of want and necessity, leavi
The Left Hand of Darkness: Brilliant depiction of an androgynous society on a frozen planet
Originally published at Fantasy Literature
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), part of THE HAINISH CYCLE, won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best SF Novel, and is well known as one of the first books in the genre to intelligently explore the nature of gender and identity. Ursula K. LeGuin is a highly respected writer known for her anthropological and humanistic approach to SF, and her presence has attrac
Mar 03, 2010 Tatiana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of quality sc-fi, people who like to think
Shelves: sci-fi, 2010, favorites, nebula
As seen on The Readventurer

"The Left Hand of Darkness" turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise for me. I do not read science fiction often and had to abandon my last attempt ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy") for its utter stupidity, but this book was a sci-fi of a completely different sort. It wasn't just another novel about green aliens or space travel, it was an extremely clever and deep exploration of gender.

Genly Ai is an emissary of the Ekumen (a union of human worlds) to planet Geth
I generally visualize a book as a scale. An old fashioned scale like the one Lady Justice holds. On left side, you found the academic merits: concept, structure, significance. On the right side is the entertainment value. My goal is to find a well-balanced book that keeps me turning the page yet leaves me feeling full and even a little cocky. Sometimes I am in the mood for an unbalanced book. But if the scale is fully tilted to the left (supposedly genius but unreadable or boring) or to the righ ...more
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin has a voyeuristic quality, as if a description to a studious observation. I could not help thinking that I was reading a National Geographic article about a reporter visiting Winter, or Gethen as its inhabitants know it.

Many readers cannot help but comment upon the Gethenians physiological androgyny, and this is certainly a central them of the story, but there is so much more to fascinate the reader. Le Guin has demonstrated again how she can creat
This is definitely not a space opera about rockets and robots; nor, despite some reviews, does it seem very "feminist" to me.

It's just a brilliant novel about people, relationships, and desires, a thought-experiment that leads to lots of insights about deep topics:
The impact of gender differences on human cultures. The ethnographer's role as a student, diplomat, or missionary, and difficulties of being alone in a foreign culture. Hospitality and honesty in harsh climates. Fear, deception, and mi
Nandakishore Varma
This is a pioneering work of science fiction. It is not space opera; it is not the hard SF of Asimov and Clarke which shows the impact of the science of the future on society; and it is not a fantasy where the scientific framework is used just as a convenient backdrop for the author to air her ideas. Ursula K. LeGuin explores deep questions of gender, about what it means to be a male or female, by creating a society of androgynous individuals, who take on male/ female sexual characteristics only ...more
Počelo je s vrlo malo znanstvene fantastike, više kao putopisni roman.

Izaslanik Ekumene, vijeća koje kontrolira Galaktiku, dolazi na planet Geten (ili Zimu kako su planet nazvali istraživači), da nagovori stanovništvo da se priključi njihovoj federaciji. Sam planet su nazvali Zima, jer planet tek izlazi iz ledenog doba i klima je hladna. Slabo je naseljen i podjeljen na male državice. Stupanj razvoja je, kako sam ga ja zamislio: srednjevjekovna Europa, ali sa električnim automobilima, radio prij
I've tried to read this several times over the years. While I loved her Earth Sea trilogy, The Lathe of Heaven & several other books including 2 earlier ones in this series, I could never get into this one, so I decided to listen to it. Never loved it, barely got through it, still I gave it 3 stars because it finally gets around to making a decent story. Really it's more of a 2.5 star read, though.

I think this is the correct edition, although I downloaded it from the library, it sounds like
Jennifer (aka EM)
This is not a review, so much as a connected set of observations about this novel. All of these comments are merely thoughts that went through my mind as I became aware of what was missing, what seemed odd, in this otherwise rich and compelling tale, governed by the overarching question in my mind about how UKL would write this, were she writing it in 2012.

First, by way of caveat, I've read only one other UKL novel -- A Wizard of Earthsea -- and that was more than 25 years ago in what was known
I believe if I had read this back in the 70s or even early 80s, it probably would have wowed me. But now, in the 21st century, it was an interesting sociological study of androgyny, but gave me a headache towards the end.

Unfortunately, I never really became attached to the characters - Genly Ai, the Envoy from the Ekumen (and a Terran, born on Earth) nor with Estraven.
William Thomas

Try as i might, I just could not become deeply involved in this book. I wanted to enjoy it as I enjoy Leguin's personal philosophy as a feminist and anarchist, but the prose was so dry it just broke on every page without the fluidity of a master storyteller. Severely disappointing. I could not have cared less for any of the characters or for the mythology.

There was, however, a break in the story where a fable/myth is introduced to the reader. This... this was what I wanted. IT was as heartbreaka
Rebecca Watson
I really, really enjoyed this and was sad when it ended. Le Guin has a great way with words, and her use of metaphor makes for a rich experience. Ironically, though, my one criticism involves semantics: this is a story about a world with no established gender amongst humanoids. And yet, she consistently uses the masculine pronouns and "man" to describe them. She hangs a lampshade on this early on in the book, quoting from a field report in which a woman (a human from earth) laments the lack of a ...more
This book is full of food for thought and ideas that question our deep rooted prejudices that we don't even know we have. Ursula K. Le Guin has a talent for philosophy and a deep understanding of human nature that makes for simply brilliant reading.

One of the more interesting (and I'm sure widely discussed) aspects of this novel is the fact that the humans native to the planet the protagonist is visiting are gender neutral for the majority of their lives, becoming either male or female for a few
The Left Hand of Darkness is the sort of book which realizes the great promise of science fiction. It explores the meaning of the human condition in new and untested ways, and it creates worlds far different than many of us have ever known. Yet it all seems so familiar and profoundly real.

Oct 17, 2009 K rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sci-fi fans who are way, way, smarter than I am
Recommended to K by: Dena Udren
"Lord help me, I'm just not that bright." (Homer Simpson)

Lots of people have raved about this book, including my friend Dena who read it for a class she took in Science Fiction at U of M. Although I'm not usually a sci-fi fan, I figured I'd try it, especially since she was offering to lend it to me and a free English book is not something you turn down easily in Israel.

I tried. Really, I did. I gave it way, way more than the usual 50 pages I force myself to read before judging a book -- I final
Nov 04, 2012 Katy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Katy by: Nataliya
Book Info: Genre: Science Fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Anyone, especially those interested in gender roles.

Please Note: I picked up a used copy of this after reading Nataliya’s review on Goodreads. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: 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 tho
Raeden Zen
Philosophical, Lyrical, and Thought-Provoking

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

In Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic, “The Left Hand of Darkness,” no phrase is truer than the one above told to us by Genly “Genry” Ai, an Envoy of the Ekumen. (The Ekumen being the eighty-three world collective he represented to an alien humanity on the planet Winter, aka, Gethen in the local language.) His journey began in the country known as Karhide, where he
I love the way this author writes. Her world building ability is superb and this book showcases this to its fullest. As the story progresses we are introduced to Winter, to its geography, it's culture, it's cruel weather and it's very unusual people in stages. None of those horrendous info dumps we get from less capable writers. Le Guin also has incredibly good ideas in her books and in this one we discover a race of people who are not defined as male or female but are capable of being both. She ...more
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
More about Ursula K. Le Guin...

Other Books in the Series

Hainish Cycle (8 books)
  • The Dispossessed
  • The Word for World is Forest
  • Rocannon's World
  • Planet of Exile
  • City of Illusions
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness
  • The Telling (Hainish Cycle #8)

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“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” 286 likes
“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.” 277 likes
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