I've never heard of Ursula LeGuin until I came upon a book of fantasy authors, during my L'Engle-fest. Le Guin sounded intriguing and my literary friend, Enak, conquered, mentioning The Left Hand of Darkness. Oy vey, what a read! I did not like this book to begin with. For one, it's set on a planet called, "Winter." I live in the Territories ya'll and we have winter a fair bit of the time, prepare for it before, during and after, and dread it during the off seasons. (o.k. maybe that's just me- other people like the cold- go figure). That alone did not endear me to this book. In fact, it took me 2 weeks to read the first 200 pages - and a day to finish the last 100.
It's one of those books that captures you in the beginning with it's intriguing plot, wraps it's word arms around you and leaves you with a longing to know more once it's over.
For one, LeGuin is a brilliant writer. I mean, seriously. Word smith, wonder woman. She crafts a world and people that are familiar enough to relate to and unknown enough to fascinate.
Secondly, the plot was intriguing (I have mentioned that my 7th grade English teacher read us The Marian Chronicles every day, haven't I? Fond memories of other worlds)! So, in a nutshell, it's a member of the Ecumenen going to form an alliance with the peoples of Winter. They are humanoid, but....
Thirdly, the theme was fascinating. The humanoids are androgynous, and are only sexual a few days a month. A fascinating look at sexuality, gender issues, and humanity. This is something we've actually spent a fair bit of time thinking about in our home, as we've given a few talks to parents and counselors and others on "Gender Matters." Gender is, in our world, the only thing we come born with. The recent decision by the Girl Scouts of CO to admit a boy into a troop, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, is a cautionary tale that post-modernism seeks to destroy something fundamental to every single one of us.
Fourth, have I mentioned that LeGuin is a master craftswoman?
This book would make a great addition to a class for high schoolers on Human Development or fantasy lit. An excellent read and a new favorite author!