Hodderscape Review Project Roundup: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS

By Anne Perry

Posted on February 25, 2014 in Books with tags Hodderscape Review Project, Orbit Books, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Our last Review Project title of 213 was Ursula K. LeGuin’s masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness, published in the UK by our friends at Orbit. We were thrilled to team up with Orbit to get copies to our reviewers… and here’s what they thought!


A classic of the genre by one of science fiction’s greats, The Left Hand of Darkness is (shamefully) my first exposure to the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin. Part philosophy, part thrilling adventure (there is an ice-bound episode that might make the perfect companion for, say, Dan Simmons’ The Abominable), Le Guin gives us unparalleled world-building with unique and engaging characters who give us insight not only into this new and interesting world, but into the human condition itself. A short but unforgettable read, The Left Hand of Darkness deserves its place in the annals of science fiction, and on the shelves of anyone who calls themselves a fan of the genre. Read the whole review here.


This is a slow thoughtful novel, the power of which didn’t really sink in until after I’d finished reading (much the same happened with The Dispossessed). I regretted struggling with the opening chapters and so I immediately reread them. They made more of an impression when placed in the context of the rest of the novel. In many respects I feel supremely under qualified to offer judgement on a seminal work, so I will simply say, I would never have come around to reading The Left Hand of Darkness were it not for the Hodderscape Review Project. It would have been my loss. Read the whole review here.


The book is still relevant today and I can only imagine how ground-breaking the novel was when first published. But beyond all the important themes and subtext, The Left Hand of Darkness is also a really pleasurable read, both for its story and Le Guin’s writing. I’ll definitely be rereading this seminal work and I’ll have to make a point of reading more of Le Guin’s oeuvre; I have some catching up to do. Read the whole review here.


Overall, I felt that an interesting premise was burdened with too much information and not enough memorable language. I finished it with a sense that, while I’d been told a lot about Gethen and its inhabitants, I didn’t really know anything. Read the whole review here.


I’d say that The Left Hand of Darkness is an important novel, for sure, and for anyone looking to read a sci-fi classic, look no further. Newcomers to the genre, or those who like to dip their tor into the water now and then (i.e. me) might find it dated and slow. Read the whole review here.


There are two basic stories out there: either “Someone goes on a journey”, or “A stranger comes to town”. This book has both. Genly Ai is a stranger, a genetically disparate alien arriving on a planet, who has to explore the world of Gethen to find out what it means to be human, to be, and have, a friend.

The politics and gender investigation are interesting, sometimes troubling, but we read this book and keep reading it, because of the story, how the cold, dispassionate Ai and Estraven become friends, struggle against incredible odds, and discover their very own humanity.

Do yourself a favour if you haven’t ever read this masterpiece. Read the whole review here.


The Left Hand of Darkness is the kind of book that can only get better upon a second, third, fifteenth, reading. It’s a product of its time (published in the same year the Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon), but more impressively, it stands the test of time. The Left Hand of Darkness is just as important – if not more important – today as it was in 1969. Revolutionary, insightful, and thought-provoking, this remains a classic novel in the SF canon for good reason. This is a novel to be read, cherished, discussed, and dissected by all. Read the whole review here.


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