Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness

A mystical looking cover for a magical book

  "For us to meet sexually would be for us to meet once more as aliens. We had touched, in the only way we could touch. We left it at that. I do not know if we were right.”

I have really enjoyed all the Ursula Le Guin novels that I have had the priviledge to read to date. This critically acclaimed novel exploring the political machinations of a far away planet peopled with ambisexual beings makes for a compelling read. The people of Gethen are completely uninterested or motivated by sex except for certain times of the month where, coupled up, their bodies take on traditional male or female roles in order to procreate. The fact that anyone could potentially become pregnant encourages a society of equality and these social aspects make for an interesting speculation.

That having been said, it is the story of Genry, the envoy from outerspace, that is at the core of the story. The fish out of water must come to terms with a society that is so different to the one from which he hails, with the central tension of whether he will survive his efforts to convince the Gethenians to join the Ekumen ( a conglomerate of 83 worlds).
I am certainly not alone in my praise for this book, since its publication in 1969, it has garnered significant accolades including winning the 1970 Hugo Award and the 1969 Nebula award. I was drawn to it by its inclusion on countless must read lists including the 1001 books to read before you die, The Guardian's 1000 novels you must read, Bloom's western canon and pringle's 100 top science fiction novels.

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