Lyn's Reviews > The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
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really liked it

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 theme of the story, but there is so much more to fascinate the reader. Le Guin has demonstrated again how she can create a science fiction fantasy novel that is both entertaining and enlightening, using the fantasy as a vehicle to explore social and psychological themes, and to state observations about our culture as metaphor.

Ray Bradbury noted that to distinguish between science fiction and fantasy, fantasy is the larger genre, a mere impressionistic lens through which we can better view our world. Likewise, Philip K. Dick (Le Guin’s high school mate, though they were not then known to each other) uses his abstractions, not as a Kafka-esque absurdist portrait, but rather as shifting hyperbole to better highlight and caricaturize the real world.

In this sense, Le Guin uses TLHOD to speak to us just under the surface about a great many subjects: sexuality, social mores, violence, politics, psychology, religion, and anthropology. The final scenes where the two journey across a vast wasteland of ice took this experience for the reader to another level.

A thoroughly excellent book.

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Reading Progress

November 27, 2012 – Shelved
February 5, 2013 – Started Reading
February 20, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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Jason I appreciate your focus on the non-androgyny issues. Even Le Guin, I feel, has been slightly annoyed that people read this novel as "the one with the androgynous aliens." I agree with you, that their androgyny is only one of many other themes floating through the book, and I think it was perceptive of you to notice all those other things.


message 2: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Jason. I guess I can see how someone could get hung up with that, but I walked past in the first few pages. Wonderful story


Natasha Agreed. I think the journey across the ice really propelled this book from "good" to "great" and also showcased the author's writing abilities.


message 4: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Natasha, I have talked to a few readers who felt the ice scenes were too long and bogged it down, but to me, these sections were what made this great


Bill It's a great book. I've read three or four times.


message 6: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn I will likely reread it as well


message 7: by Pierre (new)

Pierre Fortier I must start to read this series


message 8: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Awesome review, Lyn!


message 9: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Alejandro!


Marissa van Uden Great review! I read this twice and thought the second half with the journey was the most riveting too, though I loved the whole thing. Such a beautiful love letter to friendship and human(ish) bonding.


message 11: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks!


message 12: by Chrisl (new)

Chrisl Would like to have heard conversations between LeGuin and her father about the themes in her books.


message 14: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Devlin Lyn, you seem to write reviews that come right out of my mind.

The whole National Geographic angle is exactly how I felt.

A truly wonderful book in many respects.

My one quibble:I am very stingy with 5 stars myself, but Darkness is a special read.


Debbie Great review!


message 16: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Thanks Debbie


David Meditationseed Great review, Lyn✌️


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