readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin *****

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I’ve read this classic (winner of both the Hugo & Nebula awards) more than once before. Although well known for its exploration of alternate views on gender and sexuality, and it does discuss that, it, in the end, is really a story about humanity and the nature of friendship.
Genly Ai, an Envoy of the Ekumen, a sort of non-partisan organization that facilitates travel and communication between worlds, has volunteered to try bring the Karhide into the Ekumen. On the planet known as Winter, he is overhelmed an alienated by the cold and inhospitable weather, by the inscrutable social customs and baffling political machinations of the people of the country of Karhide, and perhaps most of all by the fact that the the people of Karhide are asexual for much of the time, only coming into ‘heat’ or ‘kemmer’ at certain periods – at which time they could become either gender.
Following his mission, Ai meets Estraven, an official of Karhide who falls out of favor and is exiled… the events that follow are both bitter political drama and action-adventure quest, during the course of which Ai – and the reader learn more of the nature of humanity.
A truly excellent book.

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