Friday, February 12, 2016

The Left Hand of Darkness

This was not what I had expected.
I've read sci-fi and fantasy for as long as I can remember, but this was still quite the revelation.

The story centers around Genly Ai.
He's a Terran and he is a missionary. He works for the Ekumen, a vast union of different planets bound together for trade and the use of knowledge.
He's been send to Gethen, a cold and desolate world on the outskirts of Ekumen's territory, inhabited by a strange bisexual species, the Gethenians.
We ride along with Genly Ai, as he is already well known in one of Gethen's cities, Kar-Hide. They've examined him, they've examined his space ship and they've come to mistrust his message.
Feeling betrayed by his most trusted companion, Estraven, he seeks refuge in a different city, Orgoreyn.
There he sees a different use of power, the power of knowledge, that ultimately leads him to be cast away.
However with the help of a true friend, he finds his way back to those who will listen.

It's quite a ethereal description, but I can't really tell you more and expect you to read it.
The story is fairly simple.
But this novel is far from being that.
Leguin has filled her pages up to the brim with philosophy, anthropology, sexology...
The Gethenians are a species that can alter their sex at need. Not voluntarily, but when paired with someone else they automatically adapt to one another.
They're sexual cycle is different from ours. As we are in heat all year round, sort of speak, they only feel that spark once a month for a few days. (Kemmer) When that happens their body responds to those in their proximity and adapt to whatever is necessary. One can father children or give birth to them, depending on the partner you've ended up with.
As Genly Ai, being a Terran, ponders over that ambiguous nature of his hosts, finding it difficult to trust them; Estraven is curious about Genly Ai's constant 'kemmer'. Could it still be as powerful as their cycle?
This is only one of the aspects that Leguin has created in this novel.

Aside from the story, aside from the indepth research from both sides on the differences between humans and Gethenians, she has constructed a history of Gethen, its myths, its tale of creation ( to name a few).

It's not easy to read, it's very philosophical and can get away with itself at times, but I stuck to it, because truth is hidden in such treasures.
Compared to a different race, how would be stand up to the test?
The Left Hand of Darkness is less about the sci-fi/fantasy, than it is about the human aspect of not only finding other species, but adapting oneself to their life as you ask the same of them .