Rating: 4 stars
This was, I think, my first foray into adult science fiction and I have to say, I found The Left Hand of Darkness to be absolutely wonderful. It's the kind of book that everyone should read. Its themes of gender, humanity, politics, religion and communication/universal understanding are poignant and thought-provoking.
Genly Ai is an envoy from outer space, on the planet Winter (Gethen) to convince its leaders to join the Ekumen - a unifying faction that hopes to trade goods and knowledge between all known worlds. Because the inhabitants of Gethen are androgynous (sliding into a gender only once a month to mate during a time called kemmer) Genly's journey is not just one in which he must cross a the unforgiving ice, but also one in which he must shed all preconceived notions of gender and, ultimately, humanity.
Some of my favorite quotes:
"A man wants his virility regarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard or appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience."
"To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof."
"Neither [a place of reward or punishment], child. There is just the world, it's how it is. You get born into it and... things are as they are..."
Purchase Now from Amazon: The Left Hand of Darkness