Reviews

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

grazzi's review against another edition

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challenging reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

bridgetwf's review against another edition

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5.0

Great to re-read this amazing book! Le Guin is a genius, period.

sicklyjack's review against another edition

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adventurous dark reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes

5.0

minervadeuteronomy's review against another edition

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challenging hopeful informative inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Absolutely brilliantly written book. Ursula K. Le Guin has an astonishing understanding of the world, every little detail makes sense and is explained through culture and is relevant to the book. It really makes the reader understand Ai's feelings of isolation and lonelyness. There is a lot to say about this book but if you enjoy genuinely brilliant sci-fi, examinations of gender and sex, an exploration of a character navigating a culture that is not his own, or one of the most interesting worlds thought up in the last 50 years, this book is for you.

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tsquare345's review against another edition

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3.0

I do love speculative fiction that speculates on gender, politics, religion, and communication.

ritapires's review against another edition

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challenging reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.5

pernilleed's review against another edition

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adventurous reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.5

mosodwatana's review against another edition

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adventurous inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0

pangnaolin's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging emotional reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.75

This was such a beautiful piece-- I'm not even sure where to begin. I've never been a huge science fiction fan, so I'm a bit surprised to find I enjoyed this so much, but Le Guin's writing is like no other.

Even from her introduction, I was drawn in immediately by her proclamation that "Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic." Throughout the introduction and novel, both, I felt that same sensation at a sentence of hers every once in a while-- something small that stood out and stuck with me. On a sillier note, I clearly remember and love her imagery in describing how Ai was not dressed for the heat of the afternoon, "in layers and layers of clothing, woven plant-fiber, artificial fiber, fur, leather, a massive armor against the cold, within which I now wilt like a radish leaf."

It was really interesting to see how she organized the book. It was slightly confusing at first, but I grew to love the movement between chapters from Ai's perspective, Estraven's perspective, and then short stories and documents. It added so much depth to the world without having to hand feed us exposition from some blabbering character, and I was enamored with it. I remember how quickly I hurt over the stories of the Domains of Stok and Estre, and separately in watching
Estraven reject Ashe when he left
.

The arc of Estraven and Ai's journey over the Gobrin Ice was surprisingly intense for me. Le Guin did such a beautiful job bringing me from feeling suspicious of Estraven and treating him as somewhat of a snake to loving and crying for him,
watching his friendship with Ai bloom and end so suddenly.
I've never loved the characters in a story based on world building so much. I find they often fall flat, but Le Guin's really did not.

Despite that, I've never seen such well-fleshed out world building in my life. She created an incredibly cool system of time on Gethen, with every year being the first year of their calendar and "first hour" being around noon to 2:30 PM and so on-- and I was of course amazed by her conception of gender on this planet, with different cycles of hormones allowing each person to be neither and both man and woman, shifting a necessary.  Despite all this, what really struck me was how effortlessly she established a world with different values and examined how all of these differences affected social experiences and beliefs.

Even on my own, it's always been quite hard to conceptualize entirely different standards and values in different societies, growing up in a world where everything is so interconnected that even if societies have different beliefs, it's all sort of transferrable. Nothing has ever prepared me for the ideas of shifgrethor or nusuth, or that ignorance would be something you aspire to, or that a world could not have a word for large scale conflict like war, or even that being perpetually a man or woman could be perverse. I felt so utterly immersed in the world, trying to build my own understanding of how they communicate around shifgrethor, and it was such a wonderful experience.

I'm quite attached to the idea of "nusuth" or "no matter" now, actually. I find myself telling myself that time and time again. It's interesting.

Returning to gender, there was something so striking about watching Ai struggle with gender on Gethen, and how he couldn't get past it for most of the book-- referring to absolutely everyone as "he", "him," "boy," and "man," categorizing them as like him or unlike him, and criticizing their femininity even as he deemed them like him, which was always-- until the moment when
Ai realized that Estraven had accepted him totally as a human being, but that he could not give him the same
. Even then, he could not break from his pattern.

I know Le Guin has talked about regretting her use of calling everyone by "he" and "him" throughout the novel, but I honestly think it added a lot to my reading of Ai and his trouble understanding a world he didn't truly belong to, even though near the end he seemed to feel he belonged to it more than his own home. If you're interested, I'd recommend reading her essay called "Is Gender Necessary?" where she explores this more.

I wasn't expecting the book to dive into discussing trauma and oppression at all, and was both caught off guard and intrigued by Orgoreyn's treatment of him when he was imprisoned, in the truck to and on Pulefen Farm. Watching Ai
feel so stuck there, forced to take drugs that altered his hormones and gender and getting so utterly sick from it really tore at me, and I felt nothing but empathy, even though he'd frustrated me here and there throughout the book. His descriptions of laying in the truck, trying to sleep, and hoping not to die-- experiencing kindness but not friendship, never learning anyone's names-- was painful, but I was actually surprised to see it come back later when he tried to sleep, but just kept sort of going back to those moments and then having nightmares.
It feels funny to call it a pleasant surprise, but it was in the way of being happy she explored those themes-- even a little.

This is getting to be much too long, but in essence, I really would recommend this book to anyone. I'd say that it can be a dense read at times, but I borrowed a copy of the audiobook and read along to it, and it was a breeze to get through that way! Even as a non-scifi lover, it was more than worth it.

geerbeer's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional mysterious reflective sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.25

Zo hey, lastig! Zoveel dingen vond ik irritant, maar een hoop ook mooi en je ziet het echt voor je afspelen als een film. Het hele gender-ding lees ik niet zoals hoe het aangeprezen wordt, een goed teken van onze huidige tijd denk ik. Gender is fluid en als het was als in dit boek dan zou het echt amazing zijn!