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The Left Hand of Darkness

01 Mar 2018

The Left Hand of Darkness was recommended to me by Taya after she read this as well as The Dispossessed which I understand to be in the same universe. This was quite the interesting read, although my bimodal reaction to fantasy worlds made it hard for me to get into it until I was halfway through. That is, I either fully accept some world and get immersed in it and the reading is a breeze, or for some reason I just hate all the weird names and find it hard to slog through. Overall this was a good book, not my top tier of science fiction, but very close.

The book is set in a different universe perhaps than the one we live in, that is a bit vague. There is an alien sent to a planet of cold and ice called Winter as an envoy of a group of worlds that have banded together to share knowledge and culture. The planet of Winter is inhabited by only men, or more precisely humans who can switch between being men and women during the few days of the month when they are sexually active. The rest of the time they are androgynous. This leads to an entirely novel culture around sex, child rearing, etc. The alien is basically us trying to wrap his head around this concept and work with it.

It is very interesting to see the world of alien contact from the point of view of the alien. I have not really encountered that style before and I think it is certainly an interesting thread. The book dives into some interesting moral and philosophical ideas around duality. Lack of gender in their society means that there is not a man/woman dualism but there still is an us/them dualism. The question being whether duality is a fundamental part of humanity, of life. Light being the left hand of darkness, yin and yang.

I am adding The Dispossessed to my list which I will get around to eventually. Interestingly enough I read Taya's paper copy rather than buying it on my Kindle which is the first paper book I have read in quite some time. I found the experience to be illuminating as to how much better the Kindle experience is. I read while eating and doing other things which is very hard when you have to physically hold the pages open. I forgot how hard until reading this. The Kindle has revolutionized my relationship with reading, not with books, but with the act of reading. I would be hard pressed to go back to physical books at this point even though for the longest time I was a literary luddite.


Category: book