The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is an intriguing book. I wouldn't say I loved it but I am glad I read it. It is a slow book to get into; it builds as you read it. It is not boring, just takes some getting used to and gets better as you get more familiar with the world and the characters. As my friend Mike put it: it is a slow burn.
Le Guin has created a unique and alien world. That's what is so intriguing about it, but also what makes it hard to get into. The world-building is subtle and slow; the concepts of this culture and the differences with our world are not baldly stated and taken for granted. They are meted out and hinted it; it takes a bit to get the feel for it. It feels, as it should, somewhat alien. Note: this is not a criticism of the work. Such a manner of storytelling can be quite rewarding. Nevertheless, I think this partially explains the slow-going of the story telling in the first half of the book. Also, the story-telling can be somewhat off putting as the narrative shifts around a bit between characters and between first and third person. It is not always clear, at first, who is talking or from whose point of view the story is being told.
Except for the two main characters, there is not much characterization.
The secondary characters are quite sci-fi-y; that is, somewhat stereotypical characters with little eccentricities to serve to distinguish them from the other characters. They appear on the stage when needed and then disappear.
It deals with some fascinating themes: the most famous is sex and gender and its socio-cultural role. She also plays with how we deal with culturally traditions and taboos. In a deeper way, the book is about the relation of people: friends, family, strangers, races, nations, worlds.
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