The Left Hand of Darkness

by Ursula leGuin | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by lane1088 of Charlotte, North Carolina USA on 3/4/2007
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
14 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by lane1088 from Charlotte, North Carolina USA on Sunday, March 04, 2007
Pre-numbered label used for registration. states:
Genly Ai is an emissary from the human galaxy to Winter, a lost, stray world. His mission is to bring the planet back into the fold of an evolving galactic civilization, but to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own culture and prejudices and those that he encounters. On a planet where people are of no gender--or both--this is a broad gulf indeed. The inventiveness and delicacy with which Le Guin portrays her alien world are not only unusual and inspiring, they are fundamental to almost all decent science fiction that has been written since. In fact, reading Le Guin again may cause the eye to narrow somewhat disapprovingly at the younger generation: what new ground are they breaking that is not already explored here with greater skill and acumen? It cannot be said, however, that this is a rollicking good story. Le Guin takes a lot of time to explore her characters, the world of her creation, and the philosophical themes that arise.

If there were a canon of classic science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness would be included without debate. Certainly, no science fiction bookshelf may be said to be complete without it. But the real question: is it fun to read? It is science fiction of an earlier time, a time that has not worn particularly well in the genre. The Left Hand of Darkness was a groundbreaking book in 1969, a time when, like the rest of the arts, science fiction was awakening to new dimensions in both society and literature. But the first excursions out of the pulp tradition are sometimes difficult to reread with much enjoyment. Rereading The Left Hand of Darkness, decades after its publication, one feels that those who chose it for the Hugo and Nebula awards were right to do so, for it truly does stand out as one of the great books of that era. It is immensely rich in timeless wisdom and insight.

The Left Hand of Darkness is science fiction for the thinking reader, and should be read attentively in order to properly savor the depth of insight and the subtleties of plot and character. It is one of those pleasures that requires a little investment at the beginning, but pays back tenfold with the joy of raw imagination that resonates through the subsequent 30 years of science fiction storytelling. Not only is the bookshelf incomplete without owning it, so is the reader without having read it.

Journal Entry 2 by lane1088 from Charlotte, North Carolina USA on Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursala LeGuin will be starting its journey as a bookray. I will start the ray moving after 5 people join or two weeks have passed--whichever comes first.
Some basic rules:
1. Please journal the book when you get it.
2. Try to read the book within 3-4 weeks so others can have a chance to read. (if this presents a problem because of work schedule, etc, let me know and I can change the order of the book so that it comes to you at another time)
3. After journaling the book, send a PM to the next person for their address so that you have it when you're done reading.
4. Any problems/questions, PM me.

Thank you all for participating. I hope you enjoy reading this book.

Order of Bookray:

1. rednumbertwo (Canada, ship International)
2. Chas04 (UK, ship UK)
3. rapturina (Netherlands, ship surface outside Europe)
4. brewski (Canada, ship US, Canada & EU)
5. Rains-Arms (NJ, ship anywhere--asked to be skipped.)
BACK TO ME. <----Back in my possession.

Journal Entry 3 by lane1088 at on Friday, March 23, 2007

Released 12 yrs ago (3/23/2007 UTC) at



I sent this out to rednumbertwo in Canada. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Journal Entry 4 by rednumbertwo from Ottawa, Ontario Canada on Saturday, March 31, 2007
It got here yesterday, and I've already started reading it. Thanks lane1088!

Journal Entry 5 by rednumbertwo from Ottawa, Ontario Canada on Monday, April 02, 2007
For sure, anyone looking for rip-roaring excitement should look elsewhere, but this novel was a real pleasure to read. I really enjoyed the cold setting of Winter, and I loved hearing about all the adaptations people had made to survive there. The only thing I found jarring was the use of degrees Fahrenheit. I had to keep trying to convert into Celsius as I went along. (Although of course at less than minus 40, the point becomes moot! It's just cold!)

The idea that we discovered things about Winter's culture as Ai did made for a leasurely pace. He kept being surprised at his own assumptions and ignorance, and so did I. A very subtle and smart book.

I have PMed Chas04, and will get this sent off as soon as I can.

Journal Entry 6 by rednumbertwo from Ottawa, Ontario Canada on Thursday, April 05, 2007
Mailed to Chas04 yesterday!

Journal Entry 7 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Sunday, May 13, 2007
Thanks for the book, it arrived while I was on holiday, hence the delay in journaling! I have one book to finish and then I'll start on this one, thanks for sharing!

Journal Entry 8 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, May 23, 2007
What an intriguing read, certainly far different from a lot of science fiction I have read and very cleverly written. There are so many original ideas in the book. The writing of it is incredibly clever, helping you to learn the Gethenian culture as Genly Ai does throughout his time on the planet.

I am really glad I was included in this ray!

I am waiting to hear from rapturina. She is in Asia at the moment and may want to be skipped.

Journal Entry 9 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Sunday, May 27, 2007
I am sending to Rapturina in the Netherlands. She is back from Asia soon so it won't be sitting around too long. Enjoy the book!

Journal Entry 10 by rapturina from Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Saturday, June 16, 2007
It's here! There were a few other ring books waiting for me as well when I came back from my holidays, but I'm a quick reader so it shouldn't take too long for me to get to this one. I might just start reading this one first now that I think about it, as I've been wanting to read it for years and I'm really looking forward to it. :D

Journal Entry 11 by rapturina from Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
This was indeed an interesting read as the previous readers have mentioned! I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Winter's culture, climate and social life, though I wasn't too interested in the whole political thing that seemed to be going on in the story and I found those parts a bit tedious to get through as I just didn't care that much about interplanetary politics, I guess. :D Still, any bit about the social interaction between the different peoples were really interesting for me, as I'm a student of intercultural communication and I found many parallels with today's world and the issues that arise when people from different backgrounds meet. So in that respect it was an absolutely fascinating read! Thanks for starting the ray, lane1088!

The book is in the mail to brewski as of July 18th.

Journal Entry 12 by brewski from Markham, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, July 25, 2007
This arrived in the mail today. Thanks for sharing this lane1088, I will start on this very soon.

Journal Entry 13 by brewski from Markham, Ontario Canada on Thursday, August 09, 2007
I really enjoyed reading this, I will be looking for more of LeGuin''s work in the near future! I am actually surprised that this is the first book by LeGuin that I have read, and now I am wondering why I have never any read any before :)

The imagery and the feeling of immersion in Winter''s climate and decidely different social atmosphere made for an entertaining and compelling read. As I read, I felt a sense of discovery as if I was exploring an alien world along with Genly Ai. The found the exploration of prejudice in the novel completely applicable to today''s world.

I will send this along to Rains-Arms once I receive their address. So far, I have not received a response to my PM from a week ago, but I have sent another PM today and will give another week for a response from Rains-Arms before I check with lane1088.

Thanks again to lane1088 for sharing this :)

Journal Entry 14 by brewski from Markham, Ontario Canada on Sunday, August 12, 2007
The last BookRay participant dropped out so this will be going back to lane1088. I will be dropping this in the mailbox tomorrow morning.

Journal Entry 15 by lane1088 from Charlotte, North Carolina USA on Thursday, September 27, 2007
Sorry guys, I forgot to do a journal entry when I received the book quiet a while ago. Thanks to everyone for participating on the book's journey. I hope it will motivate you to read more of Le Guin's works.

Journal Entry 16 by lane1088 at Charlotte, North Carolina USA on Sunday, April 23, 2017
I'm sending this out again in the scifi book box.

Journal Entry 17 by wingSpatialwing at Arlington, Virginia USA on Monday, June 12, 2017
It's amazing there are so many people that have already read this copy of The Left Hand of Darkness and the many places it has traveled!

Taken from lane1088's Sci-Fi bookbox! This has been on my Wishlist of books for a while now! Can't wait to read it!

Journal Entry 18 by wingSpatialwing at Arlington, Virginia USA on Friday, July 07, 2017
The Left Hand of DarknessThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading The Left Hand of Darkness, I was disappointed to see, once again, a science fiction story written decades ago have characters that spoke of the two genders in such a separating way. And the writer is female and the story written in the tumultuous 60s. Yes, the story is told from the point of view of a man, but it is set so very far in the future that you would think they could envision the future differently.

The story was really good, except for the aforementioned comment above. A slow burn, but stories written then were of that vein. Anyway, I left the story on a gushy high and that is where the four stars come from instead of much less. After all, a story should make you think and feel. It has done both for me.

A quote from the story that struck me enough to mark it:

Here the Envoy (alien to the world of Winter) asks his traveling companion, an inhabitant of this world, if he hates the neighboring country, Orgoreyn.

Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession...Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.

Interesting and relevant to the here and now.

I also found the story in Chapter 12 On Time and Darkness rather interesting and enlightening, but I'll leave it for you to discover on your own!

In addition, it's funny how the world works and little things find a way of connecting in your life. Yesterday, I was perusing a list of books someone mentioned as being their all-time favorites. A few were manga, of which I have yet to try. But since this person's favorites list contained some books that I love too, I thought I'd check out the synopsises and possibly try some. One of those is Hiraru no Go which is about a boy who finds a Go board in his grandfather's attic and a spirit that is trapped in the board. Go is a game board played on a grid with stones. Anyway, today I finished reading The Left Hand of Darkness and in Chapter 15, the alien, Genly Ai, teaches Estraven how to play Go. Now I know that I have heard of the game Go, but my mind never latched onto it and so never really saw it and processed it in any way. But here, today, these two occurrences have come together and I find that magical and mystical, wonderful and joyful. It's those moments, ya know?

I think I will keep this in my personal library for a little while. Initially, I thought I would read it and then find someone on the wishlists to send it to. But I feel that I may read it again and so I am not ready to let it go just yet. :)
I'm going to set it to 'permanent collection', for now.

Journal Entry 19 by wingSpatialwing at -- BOOKRAY, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA on Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (1/9/2018 UTC) at -- BOOKRAY, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA


The Left Hand of Darkness is headed out on its
2nd Bookray!

1. greenbadger (UK) Ship anywhere
2. bookfrogster (UK) Ship anywhere
3. Cassandra2020 (UK) Ship UK>EU>International
4. CathrineB (Norway) Ship anywhere
5. kizmiaz (Portugal) Europe>overseas is OK
6. VintageVanguard (Germany) Ship anywhere
7. Olivia_Lo (Taiwan) Ship anywhere
8. Basikilos (USA) ship only USA (asked to be skipped)
9. TomHl2 (USA) Ship only USA
<--Book is here!

This Ray is completed!
Thank you, to all who participated and made this Ray a success!

Journal Entry 20 by winggreenbadgerwing at St Albans, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Saturday, January 20, 2018
Wow, what a lovely old book! Thanks for including me in the ray.

Journal Entry 21 by winggreenbadgerwing at St Albans, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 06, 2018
The envoy, Genly Ai, is sent from a confederacy of planets to make first contact with the icebound world of Winter and invite them to join. He doesn't know who he can trust amongst the strange androgynous/hermaphrodite inhabitants, though finds the Prime Minister Estraven especially duplicitous and incomprehensible. This is a very powerful book, both the beautiful descriptions of the climate and society of Winter, but also Le Guin's clever and subtle commentary on gender equality in our own society.
"Yin and yang... Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male... Both and one. A shadow on snow."
I joined this ray before the recent death of Ms Le Guin, which makes this book especially poignant.

Journal Entry 22 by winggreenbadgerwing at St Albans, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Saturday, February 10, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (2/10/2018 UTC) at St Albans, Hertfordshire United Kingdom


Off to bookfrogster who is next in the ray. Enjoy! :)

Journal Entry 23 by bookfrogster at Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom on Wednesday, February 14, 2018
This book is now in Edinburgh! I've moved it to the top of my reading pile. :-)

Journal Entry 24 by bookfrogster at Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom on Saturday, February 17, 2018
This was a really interesting book. I liked the way that it was different stories and reports all contributing to the overall tale. I did find the initial chapters about the Envoy a bit confusing because although you could tell there was something different about how gender and biology worked in one of the societies it wasn't clear what that was, until the handy chapter explaining it all. I liked the insights into how the physiology of the Gethenians meant that certain attitudes and behaviours didn't exist.

Journal Entry 25 by bookfrogster at Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom on Saturday, February 17, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (2/18/2018 UTC) at Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom


Will be passing on to Cassandra2020 while on a Little Free Library tour of Edinburgh!

Journal Entry 26 by wingCassandra2020wing at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom on Sunday, February 18, 2018
Thank you Bookfrogster for passing the book to me and for our lovely tour of the LFL's and then lunch. Great way to spend a Sunday.

Thanks also to Spacial for organising. I'll get this read ASAP and on its way.

Journal Entry 27 by wingCassandra2020wing at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom on Monday, March 05, 2018
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin - ok
Signed up for this bookray on the spur of the moment having noticed it soon after the author died. I've never read any of her work before and thought it would be a good place to start. Not quite so sure of that aspect now, but I'm glad I read it.

I like science fiction, but I struggled a little with this one. I found the names and made up language, method of dating etc a bit confusing

Genly Ai is an emissary from the Ekumen to the planet Gethen aka Winter. The Ekumen are a federation of planets and he is there to make first contact and invite them to join. The people of Gethen are androgynous, only when they are in kemmer do they take on the characteristics of one sex or the other and can reproduce. They don't necessarily take the same gender each time, so they could be mother or father from one kemmer to the next.

The planet seems to be split into tribes or city states and he initially makes overtures to one state with the help of a leading citizen/politician Estraven. When the King rebuffs him, exiles Estraven and goes into kemmer and becomes pregnant, Genly Ai decides to take his mission to another state. This is run on less autocratic and more socialist lines but they take against him, deem him a spy and imprison him. It's up to the exiled Estraven to rescue him and they mount a trek through the icy wastelands to escape.

It was strange reading some of this whilst the worst of this winter's snow storms hit!

I felt it chimed with the current Brexit mood about whether you are better going alone or within a federation. It also raised some interesting points about sexuality and friendship. Glad I read it but it was not the easiest of reads.

Journal Entry 28 by wingCassandra2020wing at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom on Friday, March 09, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (3/7/2018 UTC) at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom


Posted out to the next on the list. Happy travels little book!

Journal Entry 29 by CathrineB at Hønefoss, Buskerud fylke Norway on Thursday, March 15, 2018
The book arrived today. Will start reading it when I'm finished reading the current book.

Journal Entry 30 by CathrineB at Hønefoss, Buskerud fylke Norway on Thursday, March 29, 2018
I've read 50 pages of this book now, and decided to abandon it. Somehow it didn't really catch me!
I found it interesting that the inhabitants switch between gender neutral and male/female. But it seemed wrong to say he (or she) about a person that is gender neutral! Another pronoun would have been better, in my opinion.

Journal Entry 31 by CathrineB at Hønefoss, Buskerud fylke Norway on Thursday, April 05, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (4/5/2018 UTC) at Hønefoss, Buskerud fylke Norway


Sending this book to kizmiaz.

Journal Entry 32 by kizmiaz at Belém , Lisboa (cidade) Portugal on Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Got it yesterday.
Thanks for sending it along CathrineB and thanks for sharing Spatial.
It'll be the next one after the current one.

Journal Entry 33 by kizmiaz at Belém , Lisboa (cidade) Portugal on Tuesday, May 01, 2018
I've finally finished this little book and I'm glad I've read this SF classic although I think I missed the point the author was trying to make.
The plot wasn't all that interesting to me, even the political setup felt a bit strained and I felt the infinite descriptions of the long journey through the ice just dragged the story along instead of giving it a pace.
Overall I felt the pace was too slow and I've somehow missed the point of the whole story.
Still it was a book that I had to read sooner or later and so I'm glad I did.
I'll be sending this along to the next reader soon.

Journal Entry 34 by VintageVanguard at Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Friday, May 25, 2018
Arrived safely! Thank you very much ^^

Journal Entry 35 by VintageVanguard at Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Thursday, June 28, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (6/28/2018 UTC) at Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany


The book is now on the long way from Germany to Taiwan.

Thank you for organizing this ring, I really enjoyed the book ^^ you can find a more in-depth review here

Journal Entry 36 by Olivia_Lo at Hualien, Hualien Taiwan on Thursday, July 05, 2018
The book has arrived! Will get to it when I go home in August/September.

Journal Entry 37 by Olivia_Lo at Hualien, Hualien Taiwan on Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Released 10 mos ago (9/6/2018 UTC) at Hualien, Hualien Taiwan


Basikilos asked to be taken off the list, so the book is going to the last participant, TomHl2. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 38 by TomHl2 at Beaufort, South Carolina USA on Monday, September 17, 2018
Our mail was being held at the post office for the duration of the Hurricane Florence evacuation. Now that the storm actually went elsewhere, it was picked it up and brought home. I am personally still away, so it will be a short while before I can look at the book myself. But it did arrive safely. Thanks!

Journal Entry 39 by TomHl2 at Beaufort, South Carolina USA on Monday, October 08, 2018
All told, this is the seventh time I’ve read the novel, dating back to just a few years after it was released, and including that it was required in three different university science fiction classes I took during the 1970s. I have come back to read it every few years since then. I have also read many other of LeGuin’s science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction works.

This novel won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1970, and solidified LeGuin’s reputation as a major writer in adult science fiction. It takes place in LeGuin’s Hainish universe, in fact on the same planet as her prior short story “Winter’s King.” In the Hainish universe, human populations have long been seeded onto many worlds (including Terra), and are now reconnecting through the explorations of the oldest human world, Hain. The technique of contact is to send a single human envoy to live on the newly discovered world and introduce the population to the Ekumen confederation on their own terms. On Gethen, envoy Genly Ai finds a world of androgynous people who only come into active sexuality once per month, in a sex that manifests spontaneously as either male or female.

This setting is a backdrop for LeGuin to show how biological sexuality has determined so much of our own culture. As an outsider, Genly happens to be male and much of the plot is driven by his misunderstanding of Gethenian politics and of the interpersonal relationships he forms. Not to say that Genly has an exaggerated maleness, but his maleness is purposefully shown to be foundational to everything about his self-concept and perception of others. Reading the novel is excellent opportunity to ponder the pervasive influence of gender.

On this read, two new things struck me. First, since my last read, I have developed a backpacking hobby, and have experienced winter camping on x-c skis. I found the passage over the glacier to be absolutely gripping. Secondly, I paid special attention to the folk tales that LeGuin uses to justify the cultures of Gethen rather than give direct author-to-reader explanation, and to foreshadow the events of the plot. It is intensely interconnected, and just a masterful style.

I am once again giving top recommendations for what remains a favorite of mine.

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