I read The Left Hand of Darkness quickly after finishing The Dispossessed because of how much I loved the latter. I’m picky with my science fiction, and The Dispossessed is the first work of science fiction that I’ve truly loved on every level since reading Dune a few years ago. And so, I couldn’t help myself from immediately following up with Le Guin’s most well-known work. As expected, it did not disappoint. While I preferred The Dispossessed to The Left Hand of Darkness, its very possible this is the case simply because I read it first. There’s something about the first book you read by an author you come to love that makes it a little extra special. But if The Left Hand of Darkness does take second place, it’s an extremely close second.
Again, I found myself astounded by Le Guin’s genius. To write a book like The Left Hand of Darkness requires a multi-faceted genius: it requires the mind of an anthropologist, a scientist, and a philosopher all-in-one. If that isn’t enough, Le Guin’s writing is top-notch. It’s elegant, natural, well-paced, and scattered with beautiful sentences such as the following:
“We creep infinitesimally northward through the dirty chaos of a world in the process of making itself.”
Some beautiful writing tends to be, while still enjoyable, a bit pretentious. There is nothing pretentious in Le Guin’s words. Just beautiful writing and a beautifully told story working together to make the reader think about their world in a whole new way. And that is what science fiction, at its best, is meant to do.