I’ve always noticed that whenever science fiction is mentioned especially when one is comparing or presenting something about one of its most profuse and original inventions of the theme, many of Ursula K. Le Guin’s works are present. With the inclusion of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die, finally convinces me to read her, not that I really trust the list. A friend of mine also states that if I loved Atwood’s writing, I should try Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. This I realize that if Atwood paints using words, Le Guin writes beautifully because of her magnificent insights.
The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a solitary human emissary named Genly Ai, in a cold planet called Gethen or Winter as Terrans’ call it. His mission is to facilitate Winter in an intergalactic civilization, more like to be an alliance to establish communication and friendship even though there aren’t neighboring planets. Being an alien in an alien world is very hard for Genly, and although Winter’s inhabitants offers certain kindness and treats him more likely as any other scholar or foreigner working in an important subject or matter, the latter notices peculiarity about the world he now occupies which constantly makes him question everything he sees. Imagine, us human beings here on earth are used to (hope I used the right word) having the company of the opposite sex in which the planet Winter doesn’t have. I didn’t say they are of one sex, but they can change their gender and that is something one can’t choose or control. When having sex or undergoes the process of Kemmer (more like of fertilization as familiar to us) in which all the process of changes appear, they are of a single sex and one is suddenly transform in to the female’s role and the other goes for the male. Like, if one of the couple becomes male, the other automatically becomes the other. I don’t mean about how someone act while having sex, I mean who will bear the child after the copulation. Have you heard of a pregnant king?
For me, The Left Hand of Darkness is a tale of trust and equality. The major point of Genly’s mission is somehow simple. But with lies and misunderstandings thus makes it ridiculous and impossible, well we can’t blame other for not trusting an individual alien to us and vice-versa. As I’ve said earlier, Le Guin’s insights are exciting and enjoyable to read, forget it being possible but the thought of it being true offers us answers for the questions that is somehow unable to provide us its answers for the facts is somewhat impossible. Other’s regarded the novel as being feminist, maybe for its vision of equality. Feminists’ novels are those that talks about the subject matter directly.
But I don’t think it as such together with the author, for she just illustrates us human beings in a world without prejudices especially in gender roles. Like would their be equality if we are of one gender like in the planet of Winter? No black or white, top or bottom, passive and active, seme and uke? Although I’m not just talking about roles, it is also applicable on anything, like their will be no rape because no one will abused someone and willing to be, there is no superior and inferior of the others. Is that possible? Equality in being one? Hmm.
It is not a doubt that the novel is heralded as a classic for its depth, vision and originality in the science fiction canon and stand without a question as the best from the best of its genre. Readers of this novel will agree that no science fiction bookshelf is complete without it. Published in 1969 to great acclaim, this is truly a groundbreaking novel at that time and is now considered as timeless. With such creativity, wisdom and insight, its mythology and construction and the ability to create a world with its unique culture and traditions, Le Guin’s tale is much ahead of her time and is still unsurpassed (and very hard to) by any other science fiction author. I highly recommend this one, and believe it could convert non-science fiction readers to one, and read as many as they can to experience something what they have read from Le Guin. The ending I believe will make the reader question himself about whether he liked it or not, in my opinion, the journey going through the end is much more worthy than the one that is inevitable. Though I really don’t read a book twice, it is the type of novel I want to reread in the future.
The Left Hand of Darkness won both the Hugo Awards (given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction and fantasy works. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories) and the Nebula Awards (as the year’s “best novel” according to convention participants and science fiction writers. The award is also described as one of “the most important of the American science fiction awards” and “the science-fiction and fantasy equivalent” of the Emmy Awards) respectively in 1969.
Opening Sentence: From the Archives of Hain. Transcript of Ansible Document 01-01101-934-2-Gethen: To the Stabile on Ollul: Report from Genly Ai, First Mobile on Gethen/Winter, Hainish Cycle93, Ekumenical Year 1490-97.
Ending Sentence: “I should like to hear that tale, my Lord Envoy,” said old Evans, very calm. But the boy, Therem’s son, said stammering, “Will you tell us how he died? –Will you tell us about the other worlds out among the stars– the other kinds of men, the other lives?”