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review 2017-09-15 05:19
Wholeness, duality, I and Thou
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

I did not want this to end. I feel a bit bereft, and very emotional, and somewhat fragile (even if Rocannon's World had prepared me for the possibility). And in awe. Dazzled in awe of how Le Guin can weave this beautiful settings to address concepts, limitations, canons of society, give them new perspectives and lead into discussions well before their time.


She did warn in a way, in that introduction. Because... it might be that I had late access to the Internet, and so was somewhat cut out from the world-dialogue, but it looks to me that talk of gradients and varieties of sex and sexuality (beyond the ever polemical homosexual, bisexual or trans-gender, and those as isolated phenomenons at that), is pretty recent. Yet here it is, served as a "fait acompli" in the form of a world where gender has always been a fluid thing, when it's even a thing, and the protagonist just has to deal, get over and past it, once and for all. Let me tell you, I had some fun mocking the MC over his inability to accept, because at some point, it annoyed me. Which is exactly the point of the book, I think.


Tied to that, all the issues of friendship, love, miss/understanding, acceptance, and what have you, in an epic sprinkled with back-ground myths and wrapped up in a sci-fi package. And by all the literary muses, I loved it.



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text 2017-09-15 02:06
Reading progress update: I've read 240 out of 304 pages.
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

it was necessary to keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose, at least when the air was forty or fifty degrees below freezing. When it went on lower than that, the whole breathing process was further complicated by the rapid freezing of one's exhaled breath; if you didn't look out your nostrils might freeze shut, and then to keep from suffocating you would gasp in a lungful of razors.
Under certain conditions our exhalations freezing instantly made a tiny crackling noise, like distant firecrackers, and a shower of crystals: each breath a snowstorm.


*wince* This is making me ache with cold by proxy. Good summer read I'd say.


On a usual day we would have pulled for eleven or twelve hours, and made between twelve and eighteen miles.
It does not seem a very good rate, but then conditions were a bit adverse.


You don't say... (he's not even referring to the cold, the confident bastard)



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text 2017-09-15 00:18
Reading progress update: I've read 210 out of 304 pages.
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

"In danger, honor," he said, evidently a proverb, for he added mildly, "We'll be full of honor when we reach Karhide…"


Estrevan is made of awesome.


A friend. What is a friend, in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon? Not I, locked in my virility:


There is quite a bit to address on the fallacy of this one. As in, not the author's, but our own society, which is reflected in the text: this expectation of binary, and how it messes up what would be consider friendship when it is not met, which is pretty stupid, and a throw back to the old "can man an woman be friends?". It's been subtly pointed out, every time Genly is repulsed when Estrevan exhibits what he considers feminine traits or though patterns. He can't be sexually attracted because of the male parts, but he can't consider the other a friend for the female. Sad, huh?



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text 2017-09-11 00:32
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 304 pages.
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

Mother of all introductions!


LeGuin talks about what sci-fi is supposed to be (she actually relegates that typical non-readers perception to a sub-field: "strictly extrapolative science fiction"), what a fiction writer is, and an artist, what sci-fi tries to tackle, truth, and words, and wow, lol.


I was about to add some bit of quote or other, and realized I have about ten from the intro alone.


Opening of the book then:


I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.




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review 2011-09-01 00:00
Three Hainish Novels (Hainish Cycle, #1-... Three Hainish Novels (Hainish Cycle, #1-3) - Ursula K. Le Guin Three Hainish Novels is an omnibus collection of UKL’s early novels Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile and City of Illusions.

Rocannon’s World: This is the earliest and the least satisfying of the three. Rocannon is an ethnologist of the League of All Worlds (what would become the precursor of the Ekumen of later novels when Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle actually took shape) who’s intrigued by the natives of Fomalhaut II when one of its representatives visits the nearest League outpost. Coupled with his interest is the League’s in recruiting allies in a coming war with a vaguely defined enemy so an expedition is eventually dispatched. Said expedition is destroyed by the enemy and the only survivor is Rocannon. He enlists the aid of one of the native species (the Angyar) to reach the enemy’s base and use their ansible (UKL invented the “ansible,” an instantaneous communications device that ties the Hainish worlds together; the humanities are limited to the speed of light otherwise.) to contact the League.

It’s an old-fashioned quest story and, while Rocannon is a sympathetic character, it would be an otherwise forgettable novel except that it lays the foundation for how the worlds of the League develop mindspeech, telepathy. In the course of his journey, Rocannon encounters the third and least understood species of Fomalhaut II and learns how to communicate telepathically. His new-found skill allows him to penetrate the enemy’s base and alert the League.

Planet of Exile: The second novel takes place at a later time on the world of Werel, γ Draconis (about 150 LYs from Earth). The planetary year lasts for about 60 Earth years with correspondingly longer seasons. When the story opens, Autumn is ending, and the natives are preparing for the coming Winter. The southern cultures have traditionally holed up in largely subterranean fortresses. In part, this is to survive the Winter; in part, this is to survive the depredations of their northern cousins, who are fleeing the cold. In this cycle, however, the northerners have been united under a Genghis Khan-like figure who is destroying the Winter refuges, slaughtering the men and enslaving the women and children.

Added to the complications is the presence of a colony of exiles. Humans who were stranded on the planet several seasons ago when the long-anticipated war with the “enemy” came and Werel was cut off from the League.

Relations between these humans and the natives are strained but largely peaceful. The entente is threatened by the northerners and – on a more personal level – the relationship between the leader of the humans, Jakob Agat, and Rolery, a little-regarded granddaughter of the natives’ leader.

In terms of the overall cycle, this story lays the groundwork for the Werelians development of mental disciplines that will be instrumental in finally defeating the “enemy.”

City of Illusions: The most polished of the three novels, City takes place over a thousand years later. The League has been destroyed by the “enemy,” who finally receive a name – the Shing. Their ability to lie (Actually, it’s not so much that the Shing can “lie” but that their minds are so different than the Hainish’s that deception and misdirection are possible.) with mindspeech has allowed them to shatter the League and isolate its worlds, which they rule over, strictly controlling technology and not allowing the emergence of any large center of power. The book opens on Earth, where a nameless amnesiac is discovered by a human settlement. Eventually, this man – named Falk by his discoverers – decides to set out for the Shing city of Es Toch and tries to recover his identity.

It turns out that Falk is one of two survivors of a Werelian expedition and a descendant of Jakob Agat and Rolery from Planet. The Shing will not kill (directly, at any rate) so they wiped his memories and turned him out to live or die. The mental disciplines developed on Werel over the centuries allow him to overcome the Shing and escape back to Werel. Presumably – since later stories take place in a free Ekumen – the Werelians are able to break the Shing hegemony.

As standalones, all three novels are decent reads and would earn my recommendation to Le Guin fans and, I think, SF enthusiasts in general.
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