Londa asked:

Can this book be read as a stand alone?

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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 build each other up.
Geoff Boxell Yes: I have not read any of the other books in the cycle, in fact until reading other's reviews, I didn't even know it was part of a cycle of books.
Margaret Yes! It was the first of her's that I read in the Hainish Cycle and it vaulted me into reading all the rest of them. They are all truly remarkable; Left Hand was one of my favorites. None of them are dependent on any others, but it is really fun to read them all. Enjoy!
Altivo Overo Yes. Any of Le Guin's Hainish novels can be read standalone. As a librarian I often recommend reading large series in the order in which they were published, not necessarily the chronological order of the events they tell. That works here as well, since this one was near the earliest of the Hainish stories.
T.L. Merrybard I just read it as a stand alone and loved it, but I'll be back for more in the cycle.
ReadingCat Yes, this is what I did!
Tom Infanger Most definitely, yes! One of my favorite books.
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