Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With Ursula K. Le Guin’s passing this year, I knew it was time for me to read one of her works. She is science fiction royalty, and her Hugo and Nebula-winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness is considered a masterpiece of classic sci-fi. It is everything 1970’s era science fiction usually is, with its politically intricate societies and chapter segments that present written “artifacts” from alien history. However, this book is so much more–it feels almost as groundbreaking today as it must have been when it was published in 1969. Le Guin approaches the idea of a genderless/gender-shifting society with a graceful hand. Particularly in the third act, her human protagonist Genly Ai needs to re-structure his concept of the gendered body, the gendered mind, sexuality, worth, and honor in order to survive on an alien world. While the first two acts are intellectually interesting and occasionally mired in world-building details, it’s the final third of the book where the heart of the novel truly beats, inviting us to personally encounter these ideas. I found it unforgettable.

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