Hayley's Reviews > The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
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's review
Apr 04, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, fantasy, other-world, science-fiction, school
Read from April 05 to 12, 2012

I started reading this for uni, because I had to, and to be honest, I didn't think I was going to like it. Although the novum (a genderless world) sounded interesting, I'd read some of Le Guin's work before (admitatly only one, A Wizard of Earthsea), and I really didn't like it. So I was pleasntly surprised when I found myself really enjoying this one.

This is the story of Genly Ai, Envoy of the Ekumen (kinda like an inter-planetary UN) on the world of Gethan, also known as Winter, for it's year-round cold weather. His job is to persuade the people of this planet to join the Ekumen, but nothing seems to go as planned with these strange, genderless aliens... (though of course they considered him the 'pervert' alien).

Basically the people of Gethan have no gender - they are neither male nor female. Once a month, they will go into Kemmer, which is basically their mating state. They will find a mate, and together one will become the female, and one will become the male. What sex you become can vary from month to month.

It's a really interesting premise, and Le Guin tackles it brilliantly, without seeming sexist, or making these people seem like aliens. They are people, humans, for all their odd traits (both sexual and social).

The book is about so much more than gender, though. It's about equality, family, friendship, love, patriotism. It's brilliantly written, slipping between narrators, with small chapters of local myth or lore in between.

The only thing that stopped it from getting the full five stars was the writing. I don't know if it's because it's a slightly dated book (from the 60's, though the messages are definitely still relevant), of if it was perhaps just an issue of American v. Australian English... but there were a lot of odd phrases and sentences that had me re-reading them five times to understand them. That blocked the flow of the narrative for me, and sometimes made it very stilted.

But, overall, a great read, and has definitely change my mind about Le Guin!

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Reading Progress

April 4, 2012 – Shelved
April 5, 2012 – Started Reading
April 5, 2012 –
page 44
14.47% ""The king had given me the freedom of the country; I would avail myself of it. As they say in Ekumenical School, when action grows unfronfitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep. I was not sleepy, yet. I would go east to the Fastnesses, and gather information from the Foretellers, perhaps...""
April 6, 2012 –
page 131
43.09% ""And it crossed my mind, though I dismissed the idea as baseless, that I had not come to Mishnory to eat roast blackfish with the Commensals of my own free will; not had they brough my here. He had...""
April 7, 2012 –
page 176
57.89% ""One center, one seeing, one law, on light. Look now into the Eye of Meshe!""
April 9, 2012 –
page 214
70.39% "" 'Teach me your mindspeech,' I said, trying to speak easily and with no rancor, 'your language that has no lies in it. Teach me that, and then ask why I did what I've done.' 'I should like to do that, Estraven...' ""
April 10, 2012 –
page 237
77.96% ""We stowed the wheels, uncapped the sledge-runners, put on our skis, and took off - down, north, onward, into that silent vastness of fire and ice that said in enormous letters of black and white DEATH, DEATH, written right acorss a continent. The sledge pulled like a feather, and we laughed with joy...""
April 11, 2012 –
page 257
April 11, 2012 –
page 257
84.54% ""In the end when we are done, the sun will devour itself and shadow will eat light, and there will be nothing left but the ice and the darkness...""
April 11, 2012 –
95.0% ""I held him, crouching there in the snow, while he died. They let me do that. Then they made me get up, and took me off one way and him another, I goin to prison and he into the dark...""
April 11, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
April 11, 2012 – Shelved as: fantasy
April 11, 2012 – Shelved as: other-world
April 11, 2012 – Shelved as: science-fiction
April 11, 2012 – Shelved as: school
April 12, 2012 – Finished Reading

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