Thumbs up for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Science fiction.
Anthropological science fiction about culture clash and very cold weather among gender-swapping aliens. I love Le Guin as a storyteller; she has a gift for words that no one else can touch. Unfortunately, this book had one thing in it that annoyed the hell out of me, and as try as I might I found it continually distracting. I know why Le Guin-as-storyteller, in 1969 America, chose to make her main point-of-view character highly attached to gender roles that were for some reason (gosh) completely like those in 1969 America. Despite my exterior understanding of story needs, no matter how hard I try, I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to buy the fact that Genly Ai would be the person sent on this mission for the Ekumen, considering that they have a population of billions from many cultures. Necessary for the story? Of course. Did it keep this otherwise spectacular book from becoming one of my favorites? Yes.
“And there’s safety in numbers, eh? Ten are more trustworthy than one. Excuse me. I shouldn’t use Karhidish, I forgot.” He went on in Orgota, “Banished men should never speak their native tongue; it comes bitter from their mouth. And this language suits a traitor better, I think; it drips off one’s teeth like sugar-syrup. Mr. Ai, I have the right to thank you. You performed a service both for me and for my old friend and kemmering Ashe Foreth, and in his name and mine I claim my right. My thanks take the form of advice.” He paused; I said nothing. I had never heard him use this sort of harsh, elaborate courtesy, and had no idea what it signified. He went on, “You are, in Mishnory, what you were not, in Erhenrang. There they said you were; here they’ll say you’re not. You are the tool of a faction. I advise you to be careful how you let them use you. I advise you to find out what the enemy faction is, and who they are, and never to let them use you, for they will not use you well.”
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