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.
Links: Ursula K. Le Guin .com| Goodreads | Amazon
The Dispossessed has reminded me what science fiction is capable of. Published in 1974, I’m amazed by its timelessness. It could have been written yesterday. It could be written 50 years from now. And I think this is something that many of the best works of science fiction have in common. It tackles ideas that, no matter what technology is or isn’t present, are relevant to humanity as a whole. I’m clearly behind on Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m sure the whole literary world already knows she’s a genius, so there’s nothing more for me to do but reiterate that fact. She is a true genius and an astounding writer. In The Dispossessed, she made me think new things, and see old things in new ways. There were countless paragraphs I read two or three times over because one time wasn’t nearly enough time to process.
The story starts off a little slow, but that’s only because you’re thrust into the middle of the plot on the first page. It takes a little adjusting, but once you get used to the structure, it adds a lot to the way you’re able to experience the novel. There’s two separate timelines that Le Guin alternates between. The first chapter takes place in the protagonists current situation, then the next takes place in his past, and so on. This structure works really well to emphasize how the main character grows and changes because you’re learning about his life as a child and young adult alongside his present life. And when, at the end of the novel, you learn the extent of the sacrifices he made for the pursuit of knowledge and for his people, it hits you more powerfully because of this structure. If you like science fiction, if you don’t like science fiction, it doesn’t matter. The Dispossessed is a must read and will make you reevaluate how you see the world, government, capitalism, education, and your own personal priorities.
Links: Ursula K Le Guin .com| Goodreads | Amazon