The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room
This is the story of Genry Ai, a man on a mission from his home planet as an Envoy to a distant place known as Winter, in order to include the cold planet in a growing intergalactic civilization. Genry is not used to such a cold climate, where temperatures are often below zero, or people whose gender is androgynous but for once a month. It takes a lot of getting used to. Never-the-less, he does his best to understand and comprehend the world around him. When it seems all is going as planed for Genry, things come crashing down around him. His only “friend” is named a traitor by the king and must flee. Genry Ai visits a neighboring country in hopes that he can persuede them to open the doors of trading with other planets, and thus, bring the other countries with them. But these people have other plans for him. When an unlikely hero arrives to save his life, the two begin a long, harrowing, and solitary journey through ice and snow to keep them both safe and alive. Along the way, they learn what it means to have a friend, to be a friend, to give up one’s life for a cause, and most of all, what it means to be human, even when humanness is different.
I originally picked this book up because I was interested in the androgynous gender of the people who live on Winter. I like to see how different authors write such characters. But upon starting the book, I began to doubt whether I would actually like the book or not, despite several friends raving over it. This book starts off very slow. It doesn’t kick into “high” gear until about half way through the book. And that’s high gear for a slow pace on an ice covered mountain. However, that being said, I highly recommend this book. Yes, it starts slow, but when you get to the end, you’ll realize just how much every page is worth it. LeGuin doesn’t go into great detail about the sexual practices on Winter, but she gives you enough ideas to paint yourself a rough picture. If you like cold temperatures, perhaps you like to go skiing, and perfer to spend time in climates where you can easily catch frost bite, then this is a book for you. You’ll feel the snow and ice deep down in your bones as you read. But there’s a warmth that will grow there, the further along you read. Ironically, as the winter weather piles on higher and higher, the inner warmth of friendship will bloom to keep you going until the very end. This is a very thought-provoking book. Originally written in 1969, this book is just as relevant today, as it was back then. Warning: Tissues might be required near the end.