My Favorite Book by
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Front cover, first edition, art by the Dillons.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin

"The king is pregnant." C'mon, what's not to love about that sentence?

Since it’s my husband who is the lifelong scifi reader in our household, it’s ironic that this is my favorite book. Actually this story, The Left Hand of Darkness, merely masquerades as science fiction–set in the future on a planet in a distant solar system, visited by an Envoy from the federation of inhabited planets.

“The king is pregnant.”  C’mon, what’s not to love about that sentence?

Millennia ago the planet was colonized by a group from earth.  The Envoy who arrives on this planet finds two distinct countries that have evolved, but with all of earth’s inherited needs for displaying supremacy. But more fundamentally, evolution has resulted in an interesting phenomenon. People are latent sexually, and during any given cycle they can manifest as male or female.  You can be the biological father of some children, and the biological mother of others. As she describes the way this society has developed to adapt beyond the usual male/female roles, LeGuin mines a lot of the feminist landscape that was emerging at the time this story was written.

Find this book and give it a read. Maybe, like me, you will find yourself rereading it every few years.




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Characterizations: been there


  1. I’m not a fan of much fiction that’s not soundly based in reality, but I agree with Susan about the work of Ursula K. LeGuin. Her story “Omelas” has affected me greatly, and I enjoy re-reading it now and then. Nice to hear how just one book can move someone, even a book a person read many years ago. The books of our childhood, some of them at least, do have lasting impact.

  2. Thanx for this Susan which I just caught as a missed story. I’m not a sci-fi reader but may go back and read this one.

    Are you still writing for Retro? I’ve been for a few years and love it!

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