The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

Book - 2016
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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.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Classics, 2016
ISBN: 9780143111597 (hardcover)
0143111590 (hardcover)
Branch Call Number: S LE GUIN
Characteristics: xxvii, 255 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Gaiman, Neil - Author of introduction

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From Library Staff

Sci-Fi Classic. A human man named Genly is on a mission to Winter, the home world of aliens that can change their gender. His goal is to persuade them to join intergalactic civilization, but before he can he needs to understand their culture.

Teen Classics - Y S LE GUIN & S LE GUIN

Genly, a human emissary must establish a relationship with the inhabitants of Winter, which proves to be difficult when faced with a culture that is very different than his own. A classic and groundbreaking work. Hugo Award winner.

Le Guin’s classic sci-fi masterwork takes place on the planet Gethen, called Winter, which is in the midst of an eons-long ice age and is covered in glaciers. The native Gethenians are particularly well adapted to the cold both physically and culturally – they’re small and robust, and make the mo... Read More »


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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.

DBRL_IdaF Mar 12, 2018

One of the few books I would put on my personal list as transformational. I first read it as a teen, and it gave me a whole new way to look at my own life and world. It did for me the best thing a book can do - broadened my mind.

Le Guin achieves a significant feat, creating a world without gender politics, but still a lot of political intrigue.

BostonPL_JordanD Jan 23, 2018

This book always gets me in the end. I’m not sure what to say about it. Most of this, until about the second half, is not something I would normally read. Yet, I’ve enjoyed it twice now.

Le Guin calls the Genethians androgynous, though I think I see them more as intersex, and somewhat similar to the Wraeththu of Storm Constantine’s books of the same name.

d
danielestes
Dec 21, 2017

Ehh... it's okay. There's a lot of thick prose and 'heavy ideas' to chew on. The language has a rhythm to it, which I like, but I couldn't connect with the story. Or the characters.

u
uncommonreader
Nov 14, 2017

Published in 1969, this was Le Guin's breakthrough novel. The themes she explores - gender, power, patriotism - remain relevant and raise interesting questions. A thoughtful book.

a
aimiller
Aug 06, 2017

So I have to say this upfront: I read Ancillary Justice before I read this book, and I think in some ways that was a mistake. I couldn't stop comparing the two, and finding the former better than the latter, both in plot and the ways that the Gender Thing was handled.

And boy that gender thing. I understand this was probably super revolutionary when it was published, but it's so tied up in Earth conceptions of gender and sex without doing much that feels super important? Like for all that the Gethenians are supposed to be without sex or gender, this book still felt super heavily gendered and in a kind of unquestioned way. (Again, here is where my biggest comparison to Ancillary Justice really takes root; this book didn't challenge my sense of gender, or the way that I understand and see gender in my own world at all, and certainly not to the degree that Ancillary Justice did.) The anthropological portions of the book made me feel kinda gross, like the attempts to "understand" this system, or document its differences, were part of a major mistranslation problem that was never really corrected in the book.

The plot itself was fine? I really enjoyed Estraven as a character and would have liked to see more about him. The ending felt like very very rushed, and parsing it was a little difficult because of that. This is a book that to me seems to scream sequel--for the purposes of exploring a larger world--and the fact that we don't have one is a little disappointing and adds to the sense of being unfinished in some ways.

I didn't hate this book, but I was definitely disappointed by it--it does make me want to return to the Imperial Radch series, so I can experience that world again!

b
becker
Jul 21, 2017

This won't be for everyone. It can be a bit dry and mundane in places but then turn around and be brilliant. I would say I appreciated this book, more than enjoyed it. I happen to love Ursula Le Guin, both as a person and a writer so I was very patient with this book and feel I got a lot out of it. It's very thought provoking and has some fantastic quotes.

profdavis Jul 07, 2017

After Dune, the frozen world of Gethen is probably the most fully realized alien world in Science Fiction. The planet itself is interesting, but the fascinating thing are the gender neutral Gethenians and their byzantine politics.

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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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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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