The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula LeGuin

I picked this up in the second hand bookshop in Hereford, based on Matt Webb’s recommendation (in response to a request on Haddock for recommended reads I think). It’s taken me a while to get round to reading, but that says more about my inclination to read SciFi than it goes about Ursula LeGuin – I don’t think I’ve found a novel of her’s that I have not enjoyed.

And the same goes for The Left Hand of Darkness. Set in a remote planet, colonised by humans many millennia ago, the book tells the tale of Genly Ai, a lone envoy from a coalition of similarly settled planets and his encounters with inhabitants of the planet’s two main countries as he seeks to persuade them not only to join the coalition but that he is an “alien” rather than a stooge of the other nation. As Genly Ai discovers there is mutual distrust between the people in power in Karhide and Orgoreyn, and nothing is as it first seems. (Forgive me is I also say that this set up reminded me somewhat of Andre Maurois’ Fattypuff and Thinifers….)

The basic story is embellished with descriptions of the planet’s arctic environment and the hermaphrodite nature of the native population, and with realistic ‘human’ touches such as their inability to pronounce the letter “l”, turning Genly into Genry. Given that the novel was published in 1969, I was particularly struct by the reflections on man’s impact on the environment. link: The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula LeGuin