A review of this — 4 years ago
A rereading of this science fiction classic proved to be even more rewarding the second time around.
The Left Hand of Darkness is set in the future on a distant planet called Gethen, or Winter, which is in the midst of an Ice Age. The inhabitants of Winter are human, but with a twist â€” they do not have two genders. Instead, they are androgynous most of the time, except when they go into kemmer, or become sexually active, at which time they may become either female or male. This simple difference has given rise to a vastly different culture than ours; the politics, social mores, folklore and day-to-day life of Winter are all disclosed through the observations of a Terran diplomatic visitor on a mission to persuade the Gethenians to join the cooperative of human-inhabited planets.
But underneath all this is a rather simple story, really, of the development of a friendship between two men who at first are literally aliens to each other, but who come to discover that their similarities are much greater than their differences. Their trek across Gethenâ€™s Ice Sheet should be counted among the best written examples of the journey in all of literature.