Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#5: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin

A lone envoy from a galactic federation lands on a frozen world in Ursula K. LeGuin's notable science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness.

After reading and enjoying LeGuin's Earthsea fantasy novels I tackled this series of related sci-fi books (beginning with Rocannon's World).  This, the fourth one, is one of LeGuin's best-known tales, a sophisticated, philosophical adventure set on an ice planet populated with an asexual race who become male or female only a few days a month.  How this impacts politics, war, nation-building and more, was I'm sure pretty heady stuff in 1969 and is still pretty interesting today.  It is as fully-realized an alternate world as I have seen.

But The Left Hand of Darkness is also quite exciting.  The novel is basically broken into three parts: in the first, the envoy deals with a mad king; in the second, he goes across the border into a socialist-type country and is promptly put into a gulag; and in the third, a friend rescues him, and they have a Jack London-style race across a glacier field back to civilization. 

I have held onto this paperback for a long time and am glad I finally tackled it.  It is a great, rewarding read for science fiction and fantasy fans.  Recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I just read this myself and agree wholeheartedly with your review. What I enjoyed was how it has so many elements in it, so that it has many flavours of pleasurable reading in it.