#SciFiMonth: The Left Hand of Darkness – Book Review

Published Date: First published in 1969

Publishing Co.: ACE Science Fiction

Pages: 323

Goodreads Synopsis.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Wooooooo boy. Get ready for unpopular opinion time folks. I fully expect the trolls to come for me on this one.

I’m not entirely sure why I even finished this book. I think only because it is considered a science fiction classic. However, now that I’ve finished it, I wish I had never wasted my time.

It took me almost 3 months to read The Left Hand of Darkness. After an unimpressive start, I took it to work to leave and read on my lunches. Sometimes it’s nice to not tote a book back and forth every day. But putting even 15 minutes into reading it, 5 days a week was a chore. There were some days that I ignored it to play on my phone or I brought another book anyway because I just could not bring myself to pick up.

The promise of a gender fluid society with mating seasons, and how that went against the grain of human society, was what sparked my interest in this novel in the first place. It turns out to be a very small portion of the book. It quickly develops into political intrigue and some of the most boring politics I’ve read yet. I want to say that some of the terminology was never fully explained but it’s possible that my very bored brain skimmed past it and never let it sink in. It’s also still possible that it was not explained.

If I thought I was bored the first half of the book, the second half only proved that it was possible to make it worse. Daily descriptions of a journey across ice and very little dialogue, stretched my patience and I almost threw the book in the garbage. That’s not an exaggeration. I eyeballed that trash can like it was a promise of relief.

The chapters switched back and forth between the two main characters. The problem with this is that both characters sounded much the same and I wasn’t sure who’s point of view I was reading from until sometimes, several pages into each chapter. Neither character was likable and I could care less if they perished before their mission was complete.

The only parts I enjoyed were the small chapters that told myths and legends of the planet of Winter and they were few and far between.

So go ahead, lambaste me that I don’t know good writing or that my small brain just couldn’t comprehend the genius of the author during that time. I don’t care, I should have never tortured myself to finish this.

27 thoughts on “#SciFiMonth: The Left Hand of Darkness – Book Review

  1. Honestly, the sooner sci-fi fans are exposed to these kinds of opinions, the better. I find them to be unusually zealous when it comes to defending their sacred cows, which is ironic given that most of these stories promote free thinking. They really need to grow some thicker skin.

    1. I would 100% agree. I like a few sci-fi fandoms but I never knock anyone else who doesn’t. The guy that sold me the book said he did his college dissertation on it and would not stop talking about it. Which, then, I was like, great that means this will be really good because he’s super passionate. Now, I’m just wondering if he was super high. 😛

    2. I’d love it if more people talked about the argument that women are at fault for their rapes posited in Strangers in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. It’s a classic, people love it, and it’s misogynistic on a new level.

      1. That is definitely one of the problems I have with these critical consensuses of older works; they don’t seem to account for whether or not the story they like has outdated values. A work can’t help but be a product of its time, but if it doesn’t age well, its fans need to accept it rather than insist it’s still a timeless masterpiece. It’s like how film critics insist that The Birth of a Nation is still a great film. Sure, you get these prefaces that say they don’t agree with the messages being espoused, but if you’re attaching that many conditional statements to your assessment, you might want to rethink it a little.

      2. I feel like The Birth of a Nation is an important piece of history that captures the rise of the white nationalist movement; however, it’s a piece of history the same way Mein Kampf is. It’s not a “wonderful” film — I definitely agree with you.

  2. If it wasn’t for the gender thing, this book never would have even made a blip on the radar. I’m not a big Le Guin fan anyway, but you’ll never find me championing her as A Must Read. Even the Earthsea trilogy, which I love, is more of a great intro to fantasy for elementary and middle grade kids than fare for mature adults.

    Hopefully you’ll be threatened with pitchforks on devilreads and a mob of sjw’s will come to lynch you for daring to not love their sacred cow 😉

    1. It’s happened before on lesser known books! lol. I figure if I tell them right away that I don’t care what they think about their stupid book, that maybe they won’t even try.

      I agree with you. If it wasn’t for the gender aspect, it wouldn’t have made any waves. Hell, it probably would never have been published.

      I don’t think that I’ll be trying anything else by this author. I’ve heard the Earthsea trilogy is good for pretty much exactly what you mentioned and I’m a little bit old for that now.

  3. I was surprised to see the 1 star out of 5 at first but now you got me curious to finally sit down and read this book and find out for myself. I get really impatient and these kind of slow paces and especially long descriptions journey…seem very boring. Also, I don’t understand why people are so triggered by unpopular opinions all the time lol. A lot of time they would come at my posts too and I would tell them that I respect all kind of opinions but I would also expect them to do the same.

    1. It’s a weird notion to try to tell someone else that they’re wrong about the way they experienced a book. I wish you all the luck if you try this one out lol. It won’t be one I recommend to someone unless I’m mad at them. 😛

  4. Fair review C&M – funny how we feel that we are not allowed to dislike certain things isn’t it? It’s not like you’re an inexperienced reader, or unfamiliar with the genre, yet there is that concern you are somehow not righteous/woke/feminist (delete as appropriate) if you don’t enjoy this book… Kinda like the social discomfort of not rating the Black Panther movie that highly :-/

    For the record, I quite enjoy Usula’s Earthsea, (mostly from a nostalgic perspective tbh), but I haven’t read any of her sci-fi… Doesn’t sound like I’m missing much 🙂

    1. Anymore you never know what someone on the internet is going to come at you for. It’s annoying. Last fall, it was that I didn’t rate Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 highly enough and that made me an idiot. Another time it was because I shredded an awful book but people were offended by how much I swore (and how mean I was) and I had to make a public service announcement in the comments that they would never change my mind or get me to swear less. Lmao.

      I don’t see myself picking up anymore of this author’s works. I’ve heard good things about the Earthsea trilogy but that it’s more for kids getting into fantasy. Which makes sense as you said you like it more for nostalgic reasons. 🙂

  5. “I eyeballed that trash can like it was a promise of relief.”

    I absolutely love this sentence hahahahah Don’t be shocked if I ever utilize it in my next review hahaha

    I’m sorry to hear how this turned out for you. Some classics really are either a complete hit or a complete miss. I have been intrigued by Le Guin’s work for years now and hopefully I can try one out in 2020 to see if she has written anything worth trying.

    Hope no one will dare disrespect you for thinking this was very bad. All opinions are valid. 🙂

    1. Haha. You’re welcome to try that line out anytime! It felt cathartic to say out loud.

      Hopefully, you’ll have a better experience than I did. I’ve heard good things about other books as well but after this I just don’t have the interest to try anything else.

  6. When I read it for the first time, I ended up giving it a 1 star too. But I read it again as part of a course I took and after I read what the critics had to say etc, I love this book so much! The ideas explored are amazing. Do give it a try after reading some notes if possible.

  7. I never got through the first chapter, so you did better than me. I found it to be dry and plodding, too, but I still want to give it a chance. If I don’t make books like this my main fiction/fantasy it’s easier because I have a “fun” book to fall back on. The thing is I’ve read other books my LeGuin and I love them. She wrote this series of shorts called Buffalo Girls Won’t You Come Out Tonight, and it’s one of my all time favorites, and of course she’s known for Earthsea, which I still need to read.

    I remember I got shit for not giving Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter a glowing review even though I acknowledged its importance to the fantasy genre. You can find something boring/plodding and still recognize its significance. Hell, I STILL haven’t gotten through the SIlmarillion lol.

    1. I should have stopped at chapter one lol. Oh well. I can definitely see it’s importance but I don’t think I’ll understand anyone who absolutely loves it. The shop keeper that I bought it from ranted and raved about how great it was and that he wrote his college dissertation on it. D:

      i have no intention of ever reading The Slimarillion lol.

      1. I mean people have different tastes that’s all I can think lol. There are books I’ve been absolutely over the moon about, but then I read reviews that talk about how dull/terrible it was and vice versa. What’s funny about this novel is I love the title and have probably used it places because it sounds both cool and sinister :p It’s another reason I wanted to read it, but I’ve fallen into THAT trap before, too, where a title will be cool, but then the book will be meh.

  8. I have to agree with you, but there is no way I could have said it as well as you did.

    And don’t waste your time on Stranger in a Strange Land; it is just as bad but in a different way.

    Thanks for the review!

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