The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

Book - 1980 1969
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction. Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved.
Publisher: New York : Harper & Row, [1980] c1969
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060125745
Branch Call Number: PZ4.L518 Le 1980
Characteristics: x, 213 p. ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Book discussion date: January 23, 2018. Sci-Fi. While a lone emissary to Winter tries to facilitate the planet's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization, he gets to know the locals who can choose - and change - their gender.

Science-Fiction. A lone human emissary heads to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose - and change - their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. To do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jan 03, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin-native to California-earned her master's degree at Columbia University. I empathize with Ms. Le Guin's passion; simply for sitting in a chair and posing, for a head-shot, with a library of books in the backdrop. My favorite shot, (the only one I have seen of Ms. Leguin) includes her sitting in a studio and reading a good book. In, The Left Hand of Darkness, PZ4.L518 Le 1980 (JP 9/85) one can read the Latin Phrase- "sine quo non"-which reads in English: I translate to mean: " where without which nothing". My favorite, " Save the Cat" moment is found on page 12 of Ms. Ursula's, non-explorative-book-I stress the non-explorative nature of this book-in the passage Ursula writes: " Oh God yes. I didn't mean that." she continues "Well, I'll say less to the king than I intended to say, when I could count on you." The protagonist is written, to say the above because-and I Nyadenya quote-"I had no experiential feel for privilege-no tact".

Dec 21, 2017

Ehh... it's okay. There's a lot of thick prose and 'heavy ideas' to chew on. The language has a rhythm to it, which I like, but I couldn't connect with the story. Or the characters.

Nov 14, 2017

Published in 1969, this was Le Guin's breakthrough novel. The themes she explores - gender, power, patriotism - remain relevant and raise interesting questions. A thoughtful book.

Aug 06, 2017

So I have to say this upfront: I read Ancillary Justice before I read this book, and I think in some ways that was a mistake. I couldn't stop comparing the two, and finding the former better than the latter, both in plot and the ways that the Gender Thing was handled.

And boy that gender thing. I understand this was probably super revolutionary when it was published, but it's so tied up in Earth conceptions of gender and sex without doing much that feels super important? Like for all that the Gethenians are supposed to be without sex or gender, this book still felt super heavily gendered and in a kind of unquestioned way. (Again, here is where my biggest comparison to Ancillary Justice really takes root; this book didn't challenge my sense of gender, or the way that I understand and see gender in my own world at all, and certainly not to the degree that Ancillary Justice did.) The anthropological portions of the book made me feel kinda gross, like the attempts to "understand" this system, or document its differences, were part of a major mistranslation problem that was never really corrected in the book.

The plot itself was fine? I really enjoyed Estraven as a character and would have liked to see more about him. The ending felt like very very rushed, and parsing it was a little difficult because of that. This is a book that to me seems to scream sequel--for the purposes of exploring a larger world--and the fact that we don't have one is a little disappointing and adds to the sense of being unfinished in some ways.

I didn't hate this book, but I was definitely disappointed by it--it does make me want to return to the Imperial Radch series, so I can experience that world again!

Jul 21, 2017

This won't be for everyone. It can be a bit dry and mundane in places but then turn around and be brilliant. I would say I appreciated this book, more than enjoyed it. I happen to love Ursula Le Guin, both as a person and a writer so I was very patient with this book and feel I got a lot out of it. It's very thought provoking and has some fantastic quotes.

profdavis Jul 07, 2017

After Dune, the frozen world of Gethen is probably the most fully realized alien world in Science Fiction. The planet itself is interesting, but the fascinating thing are the gender neutral Gethenians and their byzantine politics.

Apr 18, 2017

It is written like a summary of events- not really detailed or emotionally descriptive. Events are recapped quickly with little sense of inclusion so you feel like you are on the sidelines and not in the action.

This book was very disappointing. The topic is interesting and I really expected more depth of insight on the gender aspect of the book, but it seemed more like a gimmick for shock value than a genuine part of the theme.

Dec 07, 2016

Science Fiction is the domain of "what if", and this book lands squarely in that domain. Le Guin asks, what if there were humans who were perfect hermaphrodites and asexual most of the time? What if they built a society around that structure? What if gender did not define actions or roles? When The Left Hand of Darkness was released in 1969, those ideas were still fringe, to an extent, and even today continue to be viewed with apprehension in some quarters. This story sets a background of interstellar travel, to create an altered image of humanity, and ultimately reflect on our local interactions.

Dec 01, 2016

I read this book as a part of a Philosophy in Science Fiction course. It was an interesting read, filled with a variety of social issues very much relatable to modern society. On the other hand, the science in the book, while seemingly accurate, was of little consequence to the plot, for a science fiction novel.

Sep 27, 2016

It wasn't to my taste, and that was exacerbated by mismatched expectations. It is not really sci-fi, the gender and sexuality were a bit of a side-show, leaving curious combo of political intrigue and Boys' Own tale of derring-do in an inhospitable climate. The setting is another planet in the future, but right from the start, mentions of rain and reign contributed to the non-sci-fi feel.

There were some some fascinating ideas, but I felt they weren't really developed. Also, the multiple names of many people and places made it a little less reader-friendly than it might have been.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number



Find it at BPL

To Top