Monday, August 22, 2011

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin

I was very excited to read The Left Hand of Darkness, which was partly because that I really liked the author's—Ursula's Le Guin's short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, and partly because the title sounded extremely interesting. Also, the novel had quite a good reputation, so I was sure that I was going to like this book.

But unfortunately, the novel disappointed me— I did not like it very much.

For the most part, I found the novel to be quite long-winded and boring, and it just didn't make me want to keep reading. For example, the author used approximately 80 pages (out of a total of 300) to describe the two main characters' crossing of the snow-land. Even though during these pages I was able to see how Estravan and Ai became closer to each other, there were simply too much description of the daily weather.

I also found the novel to be very difficult to read. The author invented a lot of words, but gave insufficient explanations or descriptions for them. For example, I felt that many words were be briefly mentioned at some point, then only used again after 50 pages. Also, many of the words were very long and looked very strange (e.g., Shifgrethor) , so it was even harder for me to remember them. As a result, I often had no idea at all of what a word meant.

Perhaps the invented vocabulary was not that huge of a problem, for even if I didn't understand a specific word, I could still get the overall meaning of the section. However, there was a larger problem—the names. In the novel the naming was so confusing that even at the halfway-point I still had trouble knowing which name was referring to which character. For example, the character Therem Harth rem ir Estraven was sometimes referred to as Therem, sometimes as Harth, and sometimes as Estraven. This was extremely confusing, especially because the complete name Therem Harth rem ir Estraven only appeared once in the whole novel.

I also wished that author had developed more on each of the aspects of Winter. She introduced many different things to us, such as foretelling and the myths, but not with too much development on each. I felt that if she had gone deeper into each theme, the novel would have been more...complete.

Nevertheless, despite all these flaws, I still liked the fundamental idea of this novel— the idea of a society with ambisexual people. It was still interesting for me to think about the various gender roles in our own society, and see how none of them were present in the society created by the author. It was also interesting to see how Genly Ai had a contempt for these androgynous people even when he knew that these people were of a completely different race. It really struck me how our own society places such huge emphases on gender and on masculinity and femininity.

Overall, I felt that this book was a bit boring, difficult to read, and also incomplete. As a result, I didn't really enjoy reading it. However, I still liked its themes, and it did let me think about many different things. So perhaps it was still worthwhile to read this book.