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The Left Hand of Darkness cover The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published by Ace Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Gethen, called Winter by its rediscoverers, is one of the many worlds seeded with humans by the ancient explorers from Hain. However, it is unusual in that they also performed genetic experiments on that seedstock. The people of Gethen are ambisexual.

Each Gethen person has the potential to be either male or female. For most of each month they are somer, a phase in which sexuality plays little or no part in their lives. But for a few days in each monthly cycle they enter kemmer. Potential becomes actual, and the two partners of a kemmering pair develop into male and female through the mutual interaction of hormones.

It is into this strange culture that Genly Ai, a Terran, comes. As an agent from the Hainish Ekumen, he bears only the instant-communication device known as an ansible and the irrefutable alienness of his own physiology as evidence he speaks truly.

Until the people of Gethen accept him for what he is, he will remain there. But Gethen is not an easy world for a Terran to live upon. There is the weather, and the strangeness of the people. The king of Karhide, the major country in which Genly is staying, is mad and exiles him as an enemy.

Suddenly Genly is on the run in a strange and inhospitable land. His only hope is to reach some form of fellowship with the natives.

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This review posted October 18, 2000

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