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The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

Book - 2016
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"A deluxe hardcover edition of the queen of science fiction's trailblazing novel about a planet full of genderless beings--part of Penguin Galaxy, a collectible series of six sci-fi/fantasy classics, featuring a series introduction by Neil Gaiman. A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary's mission to Winter, an unknown 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 culture that he encounters. Exploring questions of psychology, society, and human emotion in an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of science fiction. Penguin Galaxy Six of our greatest masterworks of science fiction and fantasy, in dazzling collector-worthy hardcover editions, and featuring a series introduction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, Penguin Galaxy represents a constellation of achievement in visionary fiction, lighting the way toward our knowledge of the universe, and of ourselves. From historical legends to mythic futures, monuments of world-building to mind-bending dystopias, these touchstones of human invention and storytelling ingenuity have transported millions of readers to distant realms, and will continue for generations to chart the frontiers of the imagination. The Once and Future King by T. H. White Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein Dune by Frank Herbert 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin Neuromancer by William Gibson For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators"-- Provided by publisher
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Penguin Classics, 2016
Copyright Date: ©1969
ISBN: 9780143111597
0143111590
Characteristics: xxvii, 255 pages ; 22 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

Literary Sci-Fi: Tackles complex social issues and is sharply written.

Published in 1969.


From the critics


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FrankLT3
May 08, 2021

This book is NOT an easy read. The sheer multitude of made up words can be a challenge. But it is still a brilliant story, well written, and worth the time.

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mnack_0
May 03, 2021

It's hard to believe this book was written in 1969. (This was the 50th anniversary edition.) The gender issues she raised then seem very timely. It makes one wonder - does society every actually progress forward? Perhaps - but at glacial speeds... The writing is really lovely and the story captivating. I love how she intertwines the story line with snippets of the mythology from her made up world. It would be interesting to re-read this in a year or two. There is a lot of texture and nuance that I'm sure I missed on my first time through. (Like binge-watching a series on Netflix. I always pick up so much more the 2nd time through.)

c
cthulhuyou
Sep 17, 2020

Outstanding groundbreaking novel, great characterization, and about 1/3 of the plot consists of one of the best outdoor adventure stories I've ever read, reminiscent of the true story of the Shackleton Expedition.

sjpl_rebekah Sep 16, 2020

There are a few prolific science fiction writers that I have had on my TBR list for some time, and Ursula K. Le Guin is one of them. I decided to tackle The Left Hand of Darkness because of it’s many awards and stellar reviews. Unfortunately, despite it’s many accolades, I did not personally enjoy it. I do, however, understand why it has received the praise bestowed upon it. It is a rather revolutionary work, both for the time it was written and the current time, and it is deeply philosophical….too philosophical for me. Although I do like a book that expands my thinking, I found it to be boring. Gethen as a setting sounds like my personal hell – cold and icy. The ambisexual nature of the native people was interesting, but there was not any particular character that I especially liked. The pacing of the book is hard to describe because to me it felt slow in some parts and rushed in others. All things considered, it is unlikely that I will read anymore books by Le Guin, but nevertheless I can say that I truly appreciate what she has done for the science fiction genre.

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colinepp42
Apr 08, 2020

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I felt changed by the journey the characters went on in the back half of the novel. I would recommend to anyone

j
Joeybiomaster
Sep 26, 2019

This is the first book I read from Ursula K. Le Guin and I have to say that I compare her to the writing of Cormac McCarthy. Like McCarthy, I had to dedicate long periods of time in order to try to understand what the author is saying. Her writing is beautiful, but not easy for me to decipher.

It’s really interesting how there is a vast sci-fi genre, but in almost every book biological sex is the same as humans. Sci-fi authors are able to create hundreds of planets with the most creative technology, but Le Guin is the first to think biological sex doesn’t need to mimic humans in sci-fi.

She creates a group of people that have a 26 day cycle that aligns with their lunar cycle and for 24 days, they share traits of both male and female. But for the last two days, they will become either “male” or “female” in order to “kemmer” and have offspring. This is a fascinating idea from an evolutionary standpoint because reproduction is costly and risky, but the benefits is passage of one’s genetics. Since reproduction is not limited to a single gender, it is not possible for one group to take advantage of another in terms of labor due to the fluidity of sex. Most species have a cyclical mating period, but humans do not. The entire book is fascinating from a Biologist standpoint.

There’s also a good story, the author focuses on the political and communicative aspects of two alien species meeting. I found this in stark contrast to movies like Independence Day or Signs where the point of the aliens is to take resources or kill. It felt like the main character was an ambassador from the UN and he was meeting a newly created government (country).

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blank_sl8
Jul 10, 2019

I know and knew before reading that this is largely considered a bit of a gender studies book, but honestly most of the themes in here don't have anything to do with gender. LeGuin has a lot to say about order vs disorder, patriotism and fear, corruption by power, ego, ignorance vs knowledge, loyalty, and happiness. So, even though I typically have a strong dislike for books with social-justicey themes, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone as a classic piece of science fiction (though it's more of a fantasy novel if you ask me).

t
thmcaulay
Jun 11, 2019

A striking, beautiful, and profound journey. Though fiction, this book should be required educational reading for all humans.

s
susan_findlay
Feb 03, 2019

This book is really uneven. The concept is very good. The main story is very good. But every few chapters, the author feels the need to completely break the flow of the story and insert a chapter that's a tangentially related legend or historical tidbit. In only one case did I feel like that tangent added enough to the story to have been worth my while. I would have preferred for the story to have flowed better and, if the legends were necessary, to include them as part of a prologue or epilogue.

Essentially, this novel is an exploration of what it would be like to encounter a world that was mostly without gender (except for a few days a month). The conceptualization of how that could work (and still allow the species to propagate) was clever. Unfortunately, the author chose to use the pronoun 'he' for the genderless individuals and that really didn't work for me. I appreciate that the book was written in the 70s, but I completely disagree with the explanation given within the text that 'he' is a more gender neutral pronoun than 'she' or 'it'. I think it would have been far better for her to have invented a new pronoun as 'he' makes me think male - and I don't think I'm the only one. Something linguistically similar to 'he' and 'she' like 'ze' or something like that. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that he main character (a visitor to the planet) was actually male.

p
pridi_o
Apr 16, 2018

Incredible book. Deep and beautiful, moving and thought provoking, full of connections and meaning.

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SarahCath
Jan 24, 2020

It is a terrible thing, this kindess that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give.

s
SarahCath
Jan 24, 2020

A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.

s
SarahCath
Jan 24, 2020

How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession... Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.

s
SarahCath
Jan 24, 2020

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.

s
SarahCath
Jan 24, 2020

To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.

Laura_X Feb 22, 2019

I was alone, with a stranger, inside the walls of a dark palace, in a strange snow-changed city, in the heart of the Ice Age of an alien world.

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p
pablopaz
May 29, 2019

The current plot summary is wrong.
This book is speculative fiction, in a sort of sci-fi, outer space setting. What if there were a world where gender didn't exist because sex was not a personal quality...?: just an occasional relationship that two persons found themselves in. This is the world visited by human Genly Ai, a person from the pan-human society, who must determine if these humanoids are ready to be allied with other humans. Does it make a difference that that they don't understand binary humans? After 50 years, this is still one of my all-time favorite books. Yes, Ursula's writing sometimes demands that you pay attention and reflect on how small details make differences matter. Please do NOT start with David Mitchell's introduction; just jump into the adventure story. Read it and give thanks for the Author's breaking the barriers of the time.

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SarahCath
Jan 24, 2020

Other: Suicide

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