The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

How do I even approach this one?


It's not a large book. Not a long read, but certainly not a light one either. There's a lot going on and if you're not keeping up with it, you're going to have no idea what the living hell is going on at times (as I learned the hard way). I did, however, appreciate the no-nonsense attitude about that. It felt more authentic to me, more real and much more tangible, which is something I think is hugely important considering the nature of the book.


It's worth pointing out that this is my first Le Guin novel, and of course that means I haven't read any of the other books in the Hainish Cycle - though as far as I know, it's not necessary to actually read them in chronological order at all.


This book was written in 1969. From what little I know, The Left Hand of Darkness is a sci-fi classic, still holding up and being recommended nearly half a century later and all the more relevant for the questions it put forth back then - questions still being asked today, matters and problems still being confronted and talked about.


What is gender, and why does it play such a massive and apparently immovable role in society? I'm not a very academic person and most of my questions relating to gender have been more personal than anything. I have to say, a lot of the questions/speculations/answers/etc actually presented in the book now definitely seem outdated and even incorrect. Which, in my opinion, is not only important to see but actually a good thing. Maybe it puts the steps we've taken as a whole into a clearer light. Maybe it shows we've not stepped far enough ahead. I don't really know. Big-scale thinking isn't for me.


Reading the author's foreward in the 40th anniversary was really enlightening and refreshing for me. I'm aware that Le Guin is a writer who is very much into exploring, questioning, and playing around with themes like gender, sexuality, race, religion...lots of stuff. SFF is an absolutely brilliant platform for this, and she clearly takes advantage of this with gusto. It's clear that had this been written much more recently, it wouldn't have been the same book. Not even remotely.


Which is...kind of amazing. The Left Hand of Darkness was such a poignant slice of the times and of the questions being asked those decades ago; tree-rings of past understanding and ignorance that become more prevalent and more talked-about with every passing month, it seems. It's fantastic.


I'm not really sure what else to say. This was a great book and I can't wait to read more of Le Guin's work.