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The Left Hand of Darkness Paperback – Jan 17 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Trade; Reissue edition (Jan. 17 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441007317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441007318
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #289,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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I'LL MAKE MY REPORT AS IF I TOLD A STORY, FOR I WAS taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tommy Jeffers on Dec 1 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had no idea how to review this book, so I wrote Ms. Le Guin a letter. I thought I would include part of it as my review. She responded to me, and it was a real thrill. See the letter below:
Ms. Le Guin,
I am a 33 year old school teacher in Edinburg, IL. I teach English to middle school students. I occasionally teach college composition classes as an adjunct faculty member. I am also an avid reader and a struggling writer. I have always believed that in order to write good fiction one has to read a lot of good fiction and a lot of bad fiction. I have done both. I began a quest to read all of the Hugo Award winners to give myself an impression of what many consider to be good writing. That is when I discovered your novel THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. It was sitting quietly in a used bookstore with a tattered cover and a well-read spine.
As I began to read it, I have to admit that at first I wasn't particularly impressed. It seemed an odd world, and I was having a hard time getting into the story. This did not last long. The greatness of the book began to emerge. I began to read at a quicker pace. I became so enthralled with the culture you had created that I could think of little else. You took me to the places that you had fashioned and made me live as one of your characters. I remember your descriptions of the snow and ice. I actually felt cold most of the time I read your novel. Perhaps this degree of identification is unusual, but your work moved me so much that I can only describe it as awe-inspiring. I truly felt that I was in the presence of a true master. I cannot say for certain why the book is so wondrous. I have tried to analyze it many times in my mind.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
On the writing style itself: Pretty basic and standard. Nothing to complain about, but nothing to write home about either. Although some phrases and passages were absolutely fantastic.
On the story/plot: It's definitely not what I expected. Its very romantic towards the end. Almost read like an Orwellian romance. It's got it's science fiction bit, but I really think this is more of a love story than anything else.
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By Al. Mo. on May 10 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Subtle plotline, great character, wonderful writing. This is the first of Ursula's books I have read and I am certain it will not be the last.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Danielle Kuehnel on June 22 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In many ways, Le Guin delineates upon the Taoist belief of unity in order to prove that all things, materialistic or idealistic, have an opposite in this wonderful, original, and often startling novel.
Through androgeny, Le Guin shows that although male and female are opposites, they complement each other to make one. Protagonist Genly Ai has difficulty seeing the Gethenians as either man or woman, instead of what they really are - a union of both. And in return, the androgynes see Ai, a human, as a pervert - a division of the two sexes. Indeed, the androgeny in 'The Left Hand of Darkness' creates a world in which sexual discrimination and exploitation are not possible. Le Guin uses androgyny in order to make us conscious of the way our stereotypes can be destructive. One major stereotype that is brought to light is how female traits usually have weak connotations, whereas male traits are strong and more desirable.
In using androgyny, Le Guin poses the question of personal identity in a strange new world. Genly Ai, a black envoy from Earth, is suddenly catapulted into a unisex society and is forced to question who he really is.
Moreover, Le Guin displays a journey in which the protagonist moves from ignorance, to the polar opposite of truth. In the novel, he realizes who the people are, who he can trust, and what really matters in life. Genly's transition can only take place through his friend, Estraven, one of the androgynes:
"And I saw then again, and for good, what I had always been afraid to see [...]: that he was a woman as well as a man. [...] Until then, I had rejected him, refused him his own reality. [...] I had not wanted to give my trust, my friendship to a man who was a woman, a woman who was a man" (248-9).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By CanadianMother TOP 500 REVIEWER on Nov. 18 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Left Hand of Darkness started out quite slowly for me. But once I got 2/3 of the way through I couldn't put it down! The ending is wonderful, if bittersweet. The intimate friendship that developed between Genly and Estraven was deeply touching to me. The quality of prose was top-notch, as I have come to expect from Le Guin.

The only problem I might say I had with the book (and the reason I gave it 4 stars) was trying to visualize the characters as neither men nor women when the only pronoun Le Guin used is "he." I was unable to form pictures of any of the characters in my mind. Yet I think she did a good job of making the characters have a mixture of masculine and feminine traits.

After I put the book down I realized why I liked Le Guin's Earthsea books so much: because even when she is writing about a world with men and women, she doesn't write them as such, but as human beings. None of her books contain bulging biceps or heaving bosoms, but rather real people. It's refreshing.

It's an excellent book overall. Not a riveting read, but a slow, thought-provoking and often beautifully touching read.
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