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The Left Hand of Darkness


Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness
average rating is 4 out of 5

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Psychological, LGBT

R. Alex Jenkins

You can only really appreciate a book like this through multiple reads. It's so political and complex, lots of whispering in the background, Shakespearean abstractness and mysterious side plots. Perhaps too much so for casual readers.

I feel conflicted, but isn't that the way you're supposed to feel? Struggling to formulate ideas while not writing brash opinions? I enjoyed TLHoD a lot, sometimes compellingly so, partly because of the transgender element, partly because of the inexplicable madness, partly because of the adventure.

This is historically important for sci-fi fans, but sometimes difficult to follow and even bogs down in places. Try not to grasp everything in a single session. It's not that type of book!

Some of the concepts such as Kemmering are astounding. Androgenous people going on heat at the end of the month and being able to rear children as both mother and father within a lifetime by giving birth or by being the sire. Strange tensions exist because no-one can decide their sexual feelings until the last possible moment. Being physically attracted isn’t really part of the equation until you go into kemmering, therefore making associations and relationship more important than basic sex. Think of an ordinary person you know well and suddenly becoming attracted to them at the end of the month? It’s a weird blur of feelings and emotions, confusingly so, almost anti-heterosexual in context.

Political intrigue and sexual confusion don’t necessarily make for an exciting or fast-paced read, though, but the latter part of the book is much more adventurous, well paced and exciting because of the cleverly researched background details. This is the part I enjoyed the most.

My only regret is that David Lynch didn't get hold of the movie rights. Or did he?

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