Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

It's been awhile since I reviewed anything, probably because my reading has tapered off since I've been in Canada. It seems that I am too easily seduced by the distractions around me here and need to really focus and buckle down if I am going to come anywhere near to reaching my reading goal for this year. Of course, there have been other factors other than my laziness that have contributed in my reading decline- moving, job interviews, getting a new job, unpacking, etc. I am really trying to find some balance and today I started unpacking my books so I found a number of them which I haven't read yet. This should help motivate me to keep going.

This is my second attempt at reading an Ursula Le Guin book. Way back when I was a little reader I attempted A Wizard of Earthsea but failed brutally. It was just way too convoluted and dry for pre-teen Amber. We actually somehow have a copy of that book so maybe I will give it another try sometime. We'll see.

What drew me to reading The Left Hand of Darkness was that it was a book choice for my old book group, Bookleaves, and that it dealt with interesting gender ideas. This book is science fiction and is set on another planet, called Winter, where the population is essentially hermaphroditic. For most of the month they are androgenous and then they enter their kemmer cycle when they can mate and breed. Depending on the pheromones of their partner they can take on either the male or female gender during kemmer and therefore it's possible for them to impregnate a partner and later become pregnant themselves as well.

I was a bit disappointed that this fascinating gender concept wasn't really addressed or developed that much. Really this book is more about politics and about the relationship between the main character, Genly Ai, and his Winter companion, Estraven. Genly Ai is a visitor from another planet and is attempting to get Winter to join an intergalactic league of nations. They have a lot of trials and tribulations and that's about all I can really say without giving away too much about the book.

This wasn't a bad book but I didn't find it as enjoyable to read as I thought I would. There were short folktales interspersed with the main story and I found that I enjoyed those more. I found Le Guin's writing to be really dense and confusing at times. I only learned 3/4 of the way through the book that there was a chapter at the end that explained how the seasons and days worked on this planet. Also, I was often unsure about the acutal definition of the Winter words that were used throughout the book. I would have liked some sort of glossary or footnote to help me out because every time I came across a word I didn't know I was immediately pulled out of the story. I think this is the kind of book I would enjoy more as a movie or if someone summarized it and told it to me orally. I may brave some more Le Guin fare later on but maybe not now since I am trying to pick up my reading pace and I find her so cerebral.


Matty said...

You found it too "cerebral" did you? LOL! But you're a governor's general award recipient too! Isn't there some special elemental power that comes with that award which allows you to comprehend the deeply "cerebral" and "esoteric"? The power of plant perhaps?

Stephie said...

This does not sound like a Stephie book..lol

Bybee said...

LOD was rejected a couple of times before it finally found a publisher. One editor wrote a detailed letter stating her reservations about the book..guess what? They're the same as yours.

I liked it, but agree that a glossary or footnotes would have been helpful. Or were we meant to be a little disoriented, like Genly?

ambearo said...

Hmmm, I hadn't considered that Susan. However, I am a control freak and hate being pulled out of the story by something like that. A reason why I hate Rudy Weibe's books. Hahah!