Tom MacWright

I read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin on


Continuing my trend of reading fiction, I picked this up at an airport and slowly worked my way through it over the course of weeks. It’s much shorter than my typical reads, but is dense with vocabulary, concept, and nuance. Plus, I was busy.

This book comes with a reputation. It’s the science fiction book that people mentioned at art talks, and is referenced in current debates about YA (young adult fiction). And it really does feel essentially different than anything else I’ve read: its concepts aren’t part of the set dressing, but they’re center stage, the main characters essentially just serving as devices in a socratic dialogue.

I’d certainly recommend it. But I will caveat that at least for my expectations and temperament, it was sometimes a chore.

And, of course, it has critics. Lots of critics. I read some critique. Some of the critiques rung true, but my overwhelming sense is how could anyone get the guts to write anything new? Feminist and critical theory certainly holds its heroes to a high standard, higher than anyone I’ve encountered could satisfy.

One other thing. There are virtually no specific names or facts that connect ‘Terra’, the Earth-world in this book, to Earth. Except for one mention of Christ and the New Testament in the final chapter. I found this utterly bizarre.


  • The Left Hand of Darkness by
  • ISBN: 0060125748
  • ISBN13: 9780060125745
  • OCLC: 5940851
  • Look up with:
  • Published:
  • Publisher: Harper & Row