The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Series)

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Series)

by Ursula K. Le Guin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780441007318
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/01/2000
Series: Hainish Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 389,688
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.77(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. She was the bestselling author of the Earthsea books and the Hainish books, including The Left Hand of Darkness, which was awarded both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards. With the awarding of the 1975 Hugo and Nebula Awards to The Dispossessed, she became the first author to win both awards twice for novels. She passed away in 2018.


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

October 21, 1929

Place of Birth:

Berkeley, California


B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952

Read an Excerpt


Science fiction is often described, and even defined, as extrapolative. The science fiction writer is supposed to take a trend or phenomenon of the here-and-now, purify and intensify it for dramatic effect, and extend it into the future. “If this goes on, this is what will happen.” A prediction is made. Method and results much resemble those of a scientist who feeds large doses of a purified and concentrated food additive to mice, in order to predict what may happen to people who eat it in small quantities for a long time. The outcome seems almost inevitably to be cancer. So does the outcome of extrapolation. Strictly extrapolative works of science fiction generally arrive about where the Club of Rome arrives: somewhere between the gradual extinction of human liberty and the total extinction of terrestrial life.

This may explain why many people who do not read science fiction describe it as “escapist,” but when questioned further, admit they do not read it because “it’s so depressing.”

Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic.

Fortunately, though extrapolation is an element in science fiction, it isn’t the name of the game by any means. It is far too rationalist and simplistic to satisfy the imaginative mind, whether the writer’s or the reader’s. Variables are the spice of life.

This book is not extrapolative. If you like you can read it, and a lot of other science fiction, as a thought-experiment. Let’s say (says Mary Shelley) that a young doctor creates a human being in his laboratory; let’s say (says Philip K. Dick) that the Allies lost the Second World War; let’s say this or that is such and so, and see what happens. . . . In a story so conceived, the moral complexity proper to the modern novel need not be sacrificed, nor is there any built-in dead end; thought and intuition can move freely within bounds set only by the terms of the experiment, which may be very large indeed.

The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrödinger and other physicists, is not to predict the future—indeed Schrödinger’s most famous thought-experiment goes to show that the “future,” on the quantum level, cannot be predicted—but to describe reality, the present world.

Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.

Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge), by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets), and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.

The weather bureau will tell you what next Tuesday will be like, and the Rand Corporation will tell you what the twenty-first century will be like. I don’t recommend that you turn to the writers of fiction for such information. It’s none of their business. All they’re trying to do is tell you what they’re like, and what you’re like—what’s going on—what the weather is now, today, this moment, the rain, the sunlight, look! Open your eyes; listen, listen. That is what the novelists say. But they don’t tell you what you will see and hear. All they can tell you is what they have seen and heard, in their time in this world, a third of it spent in sleep and dreaming, another third of it spent in telling lies.

“The truth against the world!”—Yes. Certainly. Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That’s the truth!

They may use all kinds of facts to support their tissue of lies. They may describe the Marshalsea Prison, which was a real place, or the battle of Borodino, which really was fought, or the process of cloning, which really takes place in laboratories, or the deterioration of a personality, which is described in real textbooks of psychology, and so on. This weight of verifiable place-event-phenomenon-behavior makes the reader forget that he is reading a pure invention, a history that never took place anywhere but in that unlocalizable region, the author’s mind. In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane—bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices, we watch the battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon. Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.

Is it any wonder that no truly respectable society has ever trusted its artists?

But our society, being troubled and bewildered, seeking guidance, sometimes puts an entirely mistaken trust in its artists, using them as prophets and futurologists.

I do not say that artists cannot be seers, inspired: that the awen cannot come upon them, and the god speak through them. Who would be an artist if they did not believe that that happens? If they did not know it happens, because they have felt the god within them use their tongue, their hands? Maybe only once, once in their lives. But once is enough.

Nor would I say that the artist alone is so burdened and so privileged. The scientist is another who prepares, who makes ready, working day and night, sleeping and awake, for inspiration. As Pythagoras knew, the god may speak in the forms of geometry as well as in the shapes of dreams; in the harmony of pure thought as well as in the harmony of sounds; in numbers as well as in words.

But it is words that make the trouble and confusion. We are asked now to consider words as useful in only one way: as signs. Our philosophers, some of them, would have us agree that a word (sentence, statement) has value only in so far as it has one single meaning, points to one fact that is comprehensible to the rational intellect, logically sound, and—ideally—quantifiable.

Apollo, the god of light, of reason, of proportion, harmony, number—Apollo blinds those who press too close in worship. Don’t look straight at the sun. Go into a dark bar for a bit and have a beer with Dionysios, every now and then.

I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.

Oh, it’s lovely to be invited to participate in Futurological Congresses where Systems Science displays its grand apocalyptic graphs, to be asked to tell the newspapers what America will be like in 2001, and all that, but it’s a terrible mistake. I write science fiction, and science fiction isn’t about the future. I don’t know any more about the future than you do, and very likely less.

This book is not about the future. Yes, it begins by announcing that it’s set in the “Ekumenical Year 1490–97,” but surely you don’t believe that?

Yes, indeed the people in it are androgynous, but that doesn’t mean that I’m predicting that in a millennium or so we will all be androgynous, or announcing that I think we damned well ought to be androgynous. I’m merely observing, in the peculiar, devious, and thought-experimental manner proper to science fiction, that if you look at us at certain odd times of day in certain weathers, we already are. I am not predicting, or prescribing. I am describing. I am describing certain aspects of psychological reality in the novelist’s way, which is by inventing elaborately circumstantial lies.

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find—if it’s a good novel—that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.

The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.

The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.

Words can be used thus paradoxically because they have, along with a semiotic usage, a symbolic or metaphoric usage. (They also have a sound—a fact the linguistic positivists take no interest in. A sentence or paragraph is like a chord or harmonic sequence in music: its meaning may be more clearly understood by the attentive ear, even though it is read in silence, than by the attentive intellect.)

All fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life—science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them. Space travel is one of these metaphors; so is an alternative society, an alternative biology; the future is another. The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.

A metaphor for what?

If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel; and Genly Ai would never have sat down at my desk and used up my ink and typewriter ribbon in informing me, and you, rather solemnly, that the truth is a matter of the imagination.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Table of Contents

1. A Parade in Erhenrang1
2. The Place Inside the Blizzard22
3. The Mad King27
4. The Nineteenth Day43
5. The Domestication of Hunch47
6. One Way into Orgoreyn72
7. The Question of Sex89
8. Another Way into Orgoreyn98
9. Estraven the Traitor124
10. Conversations in Mishnory130
11. Soliloquies in Mishnory149
12. On Time and Darkness162
13. Down on the Farm165
14. The Escape184
15. To the Ice200
16. Between Drummer and Dremegole221
17. An Orgota Creation Myth237
18. On the Ice240
19. Homecoming263
20. A Fool's Errand285
The Gethenian Calendar andClock302

What People are Saying About This

MIchael Moorcock

As Profuse and original in invention as The Lord of the Rings.

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Left Hand of Darkness 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 93 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this book at 14, when an older friend passed it on to me. Even then, I was awed by the powerful story, the relationship between the main characters, & the unique culture Ms. LeGuin created. Now in my 60s, I have read & reread this book many times, & still find some new subtlety every time I pick it up again. This is the book I would take with me to a desert island; it's complex, poetic & thoughtful. It's not a quick read & on to the next pleasure. It requires commitment & patience, as it takes its time to unfold & build. Gently Ai is a normal human man who has been sent to the planet Gethan on a mission to contact & study the local culture. In Ms. LeGuin's universe, Gethan is one of many experimental colonies deserted on their planet after undergoing genetic alteration. Although these people are human, they have been genetically altered in some way then left to evolve. In Gethen's case, the entire population is hermaphroditic, neither male nor female, but with the ability to become either sex. During most of their lives, the people are basically neutral, but they have regular cycles, called Kemmer, where a couple will take on the aspects of male and female to produce children. Anyone can become either gender during each Kemmer. The social organization that occurs because of this is completely unique. There are no instinctive gender attributes such as those which are present on our society, & each person is taken entirely at face value. For Genly Ai, this is very disconcerting, & he finds interaction with these people very uncomfortable. One of the high Government officials, a person named Estraven, attempts to help him & is not initially successful, because the two people's ways of thinking are so different. When Estraven's advice puts Ai in danger, Estraven risks everything to save him. Forced together by extreme circumstances & making a journey where only cooperation will save them, the two become friends, thus showing that peoples' differences, no matter how extreme, can be overcome by understanding. This is made all the more apparent by the fact that Ai is black, & that this is mentioned only in passing, as something unimportant (although in the 60s, when this book was written, it was very important indeed). This book's message of tolerance, understanding and even love between two very different people is even more relevant today, as we wrestle with racial & sexual issues in our own society & must learn, as Genly Ai must do, how to open our minds to that which is different ... & yet still basically the same. I wish you the same joy & wonder in reading this as I have.
TY2 More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect to like this book, but it came to me highly recommended, so I gave it a try. I was rivetted. It's not just a science fiction novel, but a novel of human relationships. This is truely a classic piece of literature.
Darkloom More than 1 year ago
Re-reading The Left Hand of Darkness, I realized how little I remembered it.  I'd first read it many years ago and, frankly, I was a different person then.  I doubt that the slow pace of the first two-thirds of the book bothered me then.  That style of writing had not yet gone out of favor.  I knew that it was considered a very special book, but I confess I probably had no idea why. Older now,I started the novel with high expectations and soon wondered why.  By the end, I knew why.  As someone else said in a review, it's a beautiful novel.  It's challenging in its scope. Le Guin knows how to create alien cultures, how to place a stranger within that culture and show how one, or more, can learn to live within it.   The story is about alienness, aloneness, and love.  Hatred and cruelty.Survival and death.  It's also so very much about living and learning. The people of Winter (Gethan in the local languages) know that an alien has arrived on their world, although not everyone accepts that he's from another world.  Genly Ai is from the Ekumenic and he has come to offer Winter membership in that union.  He first presents himself and his proposal to the leaders of Karhide and finds himself relying on the prime minister, Therem Harth rem ir Estraven.  Their relationship is more than testy.  They distrust each other, even though Estraven accepts Ai's claim and promotes his mission. However, Karhide, its leaders and people are nothing like what Ai is used to.  He makes mistakes, but even Estraven makes mistakes complicating matters. The two find themselves on the outside and eventually dependent on each other for survival.  This relationship gives us the true nature of the alienness between the two races.  As they work together each learns there are differences, some of which make things difficult, but there are also similarities. They are both human, after all.  Le Guin's Terrans often become more like the aliens they encounter than they are like their own people.  This transition can be beautiful, but it is also often painful.  She creates cultures so vividly that the reality of them is powerful when one is lost within the pages of her stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Genly Ai, an envoy from the human galaxy is sent to the alien planet Winter/Gethen on a mission to bring the planet Winter into the fold of an evolving intergalactic civilization. He must do so by closing the gap between his own culture and the prejudices of those that he comes across. On a planet where people are of no sex, but have the ability to change into either gender, this is a large gap indeed. I found the novel fascinating and was amazed with Le Guin¿s intellectual and creative storytelling. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a book that makes you sit back and ponder.
MaidMarion More than 1 year ago
It's not that the story is so fantastic on its own, it is how it makes you think about how we are so lashed into our male/female thinking. Everything in our world seems to be related to gender, and it really isn't a positive. While initially I thought how wierd, how awful, how ironic that "they" saw the normal male/female seperation as perveted, as the story concluded I began to see it from a different perspective. Le Guin managed to write a science fiction story that makes one look at reality in a new way. It definitely deserved the praise it recieved.
papicek More than 1 year ago
- Which is how I titled my Essentials List.

LeGuin has an uncanny ability to pack her prose with thought-provoking philosophical asides which still give me pause, as do her depictions of the intricacies of this utterly alien civilization. "The houses and islands and Hearths sit every which way, chaotic, in a profuse, prodigious confusion that suddenly culminates (as anarchy will do in Karhide) in splendor" still resonates. Perhaps I'm just farfetching though.

However, I confess that what I found riveting is their journey over the Ice. As one who yearly went winter-backpacking, I know first hand how huge the sound of wind is in the winter wilderness, and of nightime silences so profound that the tick of a falling ice crystal grabs your attention, and of "...the susurus of windblown snow...." I can attest to the immensity of the solitary winter landscape (and you attend to it, for it can hurt, kill, or cause you misery otherwise) as well as the constant preoccupation with the tiny details of comfort and survival, and with food, which equals strength, warmth, and well-being. I found her depiction of this wonderfully evocative. It is absolutely authentic.

Others may feel that the bond between Ai and Estraven is lacking in the end. I assure you that, apart from their dramatic situation, the comradeship, the otherworldly sharing, entailed with long winter treks is deep and lasting.

Difficult to share with others, nonetheless, this is a fat, multifaceted story which works well on many levels. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author of the Earthsea books brings readers to a frozen world that challenges traditional views of gender and society. Both exciting and fascinating, the adventures of Earth Ambassador Genly Ai on the planet Winter represent science fiction storytelling at its best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After all these years, a dream to read, and a marvel of imagination. Nothing else comes close.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book i have read by Le Guin and i thought it was just ok. It was highly recommended to me but it was not the best. I felt the story moved very slow, and Instead of eliciting a strong bond with the characters, you see the story as textbook. It¿s this stiff objectiveness that prevents the read from forming a deep connection with the characters. As far as innovation, i can't say i saw any new sci fi thinking but the writing and the philosophical thoughts behind the embodiment of the dualistic pit falls of humanity in the Gethen race. If you are a reader then you wont mind this one. I will definitely read more from Le Guin
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the read about as much as any other. The idea of a both-sex civilization alone would probably keep me hooked to the book but LeGuin instead gives me other ideas to feast on. Religion, humankinds speeding about issues,and many many more. The reading gets tough from time to time but overall it was a very satisfying read.
StefanY on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I guess that since I mentioned this in my review of The Earthsea Trilogy also by Ursula Le Guin I should most probably write a review for Left Hand of Darkness as well. Left Hand of Darkness is more of an exploration of human emotion/sexuality than straight Science Fiction. The story centers around an emissary who has been sent to a distant planet, called Winter, in order to convince them that joining the intergalactic federation is a good thing for their planet and their society. The people of the planet are both male and female, able to change their sex pretty much at will and our emissary must learn how to cope with this strange sexuality at the same time that his body is learning to cope with the extreme climate of this frozen planet. Overall, I thought that this novel had a grand concept that the author handled adeptly and really did make the reader think and consider human emotion and sexuality. Her storyline is engaging and her characters are well-fleshed out. My only problem with it is that her prose seemed very heavy-handed. I consider myself to have a fairly extensive vocabulary and it seemed that I was stumped by words often in this book. I normally don't have a problem when I come across a word that I don't know and I actually enjoy finding out the meaning of a new word, but the frequency with which this occurred was a bit frustrating. Even without the vocabulary that Le Guin uses in this novel, there were many times that I felt that the plot was plodding along especially when dealing with all of the philosophical and bureaucratic hurdles that the protagonist must go through in order to reach an understanding of these people with whom he must attempt to make some sort of alliance.The concept and storyline were enough for me to give this an above average rating, however had Le Guin's style matched that of her Earthsea Trilogy, I'm sure that I would have enjoyed the novel much more and given it a much higher rating.
sarjah on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I'm not sure what I can say about this book without giving too much away. part political commentary, part social commentary? A human ambassador to a planet so far away that by the time he gets back home his entire family will be long dead. The natives most of the time are not gendered but turn either male or female depending on...? several factors really. LeGuin has a peculiar style of writing but if you only read one of her books read this one. This is the kind of Sci-fi that you can sink your teeth (and your brain) into its really a short book but very dense and a great story.
ryvre on LibraryThing 8 months ago
After all I've heard about this book, I was underwhelmed. I spent most of the book wondering when it would get interesting. The world is pretty cool though.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I bought the special 25th anniversary edition when it first came out in 1994 fully intending to read it then. But that was the year of the big ¿upheaval¿ when after living 25 years in Savannah hubby was transferred to California. Somehow I never got around to reading it until I saw so many people on LT talking about it the last few months so I searched among the mess that my library has become recently and finally tackled it.I had a difficult time getting into the story so I had a slow beginning. I¿m not sure why, but I just couldn¿t seem to get into a flow with the story. Like Genly Ai I found the inhabitants of Winter to be difficult to understand and the strange words from that world really slowed me down. I did enjoy the interspersed chapters that gave myths and history of this strange world and Genly Ai¿s visit to the foretellers I found interesting. About 2/3 of the way through, after reading it for nearly a week, I finally put the book aside in order to finish reading Battle Cry of Freedom and a couple of lighter reads for relaxation.Last Sunday I finally decided I wanted to finish it so I could move on. The last third went very quickly for me and I finished it in an afternoon (those of you who know me realize that is fast reading for me!). Suddenly I seemed to connect with the two main characters and I really enjoyed the rest of the book. I¿m not sure if this part of the book was just more interesting or if my attitude had changed allowing me to appreciate the story. Perhaps, because I gave the story ¿a rest,¿ subconsciously I processed what I had read previously and the world didn¿t seem as strange to me any more. In the end, it was a satisfying read. Recommended
maryh10000 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It's a world where the people are asexual most of the time, and only take on male or female characteristics for a few days each month. And the same person can male one month and female the next. Well realized, detailed world.
catalogthis on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One-sentence plot summary: a human emissary arrives on the ice planet Gethen, populated by a people who are neither male, nor female, but both, and neither.I struggled through the beginning. Le Guin gets so enthralled with her own world-building that she neglects to provide her audience with a primer... the result is that the first few chapters read like Science Fiction Mad Libs, for example: "He {verb?}ed across {place?} in {month? continent? weather? vehicle?}. After I reached the end, I re-read some earlier passages and found them much easier -- like sledging during kroxet in Thern.Ultimately, what I found most interesting wasn't the ambisexual nature of Gethenians, but the contrast between the two primary states: Karhide and Orgoreyn. The former is "not a nation, but a family quarrel," while the latter is most definitely a nation, with all its attendant bureaucracy and xenophobia. As the primary narrator, the human Envoy, says: "I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of... and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?"
andreablythe on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Genly Ai is an emissary from a galaxy collective to Winter, a planet in which there is no gender division, the people are essentially androgynous (or perhaps asexual) except for specific times when they are in kemmer and take on one or another gender for the purpose of sex. While navigating the complicated and dangerous political workings of Winter, Genly must learn to let go of his assumptions surrounding gender roles if he hopes to survive. While this story was written in 1969, the need to reconsider our assumptions about gender identity is far from outdated. True, a lot has changed since that time. Women have more options; becoming a housewife is a choice instead of the standard, and so on. However, gender roles and definitions of what constitutes proper female vs. male behavior are still prevalent. There is not a perfect equality (and the reality is that there might not be such a thing). Books like The Left of Darkness allows us to look at our present assumptions of how things are and how we think things should be, and question them. This is a very good thing. Beyond the intellectual aspects of this book, the plot of political intrigue and the danger of trying to present new ideas to a society you don't fully understand is fascinating. Combine that with the sheer survival aspects of a world that is always in Winter and it's fantastic. Genly is an interesting character, and his growth and change in thinking is subtle, but clear by the end. This is a plainly enjoyable read, and one I would recommend picking up if you're looking for some classic scifi.
meersan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Male ambassador explores androgynous society, calls everyone "he/him".
jeffjardine on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I get a thrill every time I start one of Le Guin's books because I know I'm in for another immersive visit to another planet. The Left Hand of Darkness is no exception. No one in SF builds a world like she does. I love that she actually writes about different cultures within an alien world, something that so many SF authors amazingly neglect.The plot is straightforward and secondary to the illustration of the people of the planet of Gethen/Winter. It hardly needs to be mentioned that joining the Gethenians for awhile makes the reader think deeply about his or her own culture. This is a great book.
EmScape on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of the first science fiction books I ever read. Upon second reading, and now having read the beginning of the series, I found that I understood it better. Science fiction as a genre involves an entirely different set of reading "muscles" than stories set in our own world. I found it easier to get into this time, and found that the thought experiment of a world without gender division was more clearly elucidated. I wasn't as lost in the story, as I knew roughly what happened, and was able to spend more time thinking about the binary and dualist lifestyles of our own world in contrast with that of Gethen.The other thing that struck me while reading is that I was very glad I was reading it in Florida, rather than back home in Minnesota. The world of Gethen, also called Winter, is in the midst of an ice age, and a large part of the book's action takes place on a long trek across a glacier. I think if I'd been reading it with a blizzard swirling outside my own window, it would have been less enjoyable. I'm rather affected by the setting of the book I'm reading and that wintry setting would have served to intensify my own physical chilliness. I still rate this book highly, both because of the successfulness of the thought experience, its place as a fascinating book in a compelling series, and that despite quite a lot of world-building, LeGuin still manages to present well-drawn and dynamic characters.
Seamusoz on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Wonderful novel and a timeless classic.This work has the potential to open the mind of the reader to other ways of approaching life and considering the role of men and women in society.The story is deceptively simple and a familiar format for science fiction but Le Guin creates a world so believable you will be convinced it must exist somewhere in the universe.Themes of love, friendship, compassion and sacrifice are subtly drawn to give the reader an experience at once satisfying and uplifting.James Pope
jorgearanda on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Le Guin is an innovative, wise, and warm genius, and this book is a beautiful complement to The Dispossessed.
bradsucks on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I got about five pages in. Too many kings and castles and so on. I read the introduction and Le Guin seemed so much smarter than me that it shook my belief I could possibly enjoy the book.
bramon on LibraryThing 8 months ago
D-This is such an atmospheric and thought-provoking book. Over the years the actual plot has washed away from my memories, and all that is left is the world that Le Guin imagined.
DrBrewhaha on LibraryThing 8 months ago
An envoy, Ai, is sent to an androgynous world to attempt to get them to join the Ekumen, a universe-wide league of world's. The envoy is caught in the local politics of two countries and almost dies several times before finding success. The key to his success was a patriot, Estraven, who was willing to do whatever he needed to help his country. This book explores in a small way ideas related to gender differences. The topic could have been expanded more, but then the story and character-development would have suffered. Further stories set in this story-verse would be interesting.