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Genly Ai is an emissary from the human galaxy to Winter, a lost, stray world. His mission is to bring the planet back into the fold of an evolving galactic civilization, but to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own culture and prejudices and those that he encounters. On a planet where people are of no gender--or both--this is a broad gulf indeed. The inventiveness and delicacy with which Le Guin portrays her alien world are not only unusual and inspiring, they are fundamental to almost all decent science fiction that has been written since. In fact, reading Le Guin again may cause the eye to narrow somewhat disapprovingly at the younger generation: what new ground are they breaking that is not already explored here with greater skill and acumen? It cannot be said, however, that this is a rollicking good story. Le Guin takes a lot of time to explore her characters, the world of her creation, and the philosophical themes that arise.
If there were a canon of classic science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness would be included without debate. Certainly, no science fiction bookshelf may be said to be complete without it. But the real question: is it fun to read? It is science fiction of an earlier time, a time that has not worn particularly well in the genre. The Left Hand of Darkness was a groundbreaking book in 1969, a time when, like the rest of the arts, science fiction was awakening to new dimensions in both society and literature. But the first excursions out of the pulp tradition are sometimes difficult to reread with much enjoyment. Rereading The Left Hand of Darkness, decades after its publication, one feels that those who chose it for the Hugo and Nebula awards were right to do so, for it truly does stand out as one of the great books of that era. It is immensely rich in timeless wisdom and insight.
The Left Hand of Darkness is science fiction for the thinking reader, and should be read attentively in order to properly savor the depth of insight and the subtleties of plot and character. It is one of those pleasures that requires a little investment at the beginning, but pays back tenfold with the joy of raw imagination that resonates through the subsequent 30 years of science fiction storytelling. Not only is the bookshelf incomplete without owning it, so is the reader without having read it. --L. Blunt Jackson --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
'A beguiling read ... Le Guin's sometimes mischievous narrative tone is crisp and fresh' www.sf.com 'A jewel of a story' Frank Herbert 'As profuse and original in invention as The Lord of the Rings' Michael Moorcock 'Delicate yet daring, narrated with immense gravitas...Ursula Le Guin's masterpiece' Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
The Left Hand of Darkness contains my current favourite sentence. It would take me a paragraph to ploddingly write what Ms. Read morePublished 10 months ago by L D. Sword
On the writing style itself: Pretty basic and standard. Nothing to complain about, but nothing to write home about either. Read morePublished on Nov. 18 2013 by Anastasia
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.Published on May 10 2013 by Al. Mo.
The protagonist is a human envoy sent to a planet of hermaphrodites to invite them to join galactic civilisation. Read morePublished on April 18 2007 by Greg Slade
I first read this book over 30 years ago, and 2 worn out copies later, have lost count of the number of times I've re-read it. Read morePublished on July 18 2004 by Jax
I had been meaning for some time to read Le Guin, and picked this book as a starter. It did not live up to my expectations.
Let me start with the good. Read more
In her introduction, the author makes some compelling statements about the nature of science fiction as descriptive and not predictive. Read morePublished on May 19 2004 by Nicholas Jong
I was just forced to read this book for a class. It was assigned under the false pretenses that my classmates and I would take away some kind of meaning from it about notions of... Read morePublished on March 11 2004
With a few exceptions, I don't usually enjoy the usual science fiction books. But this one is different. Read morePublished on Feb. 17 2004 by N. Berman