The Left Hand of Darkness, Introduction through Chapter 3

Tonight I’m JUST going to talk about my first impressions of the book since it’s a bit late in the evening.

Le Guin introduces vocab fast and furious, and expects the reader to pick up enough through context to get by – this is a point of similarity between Left Hand of Darkness and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, and I’m suspecting I may want to read Ancillary Justice concurrently (it’s been sitting half-read on my shelf for a few months) to look for other similarities. 

The first chapter is dreadfully boring (along with, honestly, the second). I can see threads of the plot that are developing, but they’re second to world building (we spend the first chapter viewing a parade with the viewpoint character). Since the mid-1970s (i.e. since Star Wars), science fiction has taken more threads from its pulpy past than from slow-burning stories like Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and I can see both advantages to that and disadvantages. I want to see if I can merge more world-building into my writing without stretching out the initial pace.

I have no idea what a Gossiwor sounds like, I just know I don’t want to hear it.

The concept of an eternally present Year One, with time being counted forward or back from the present year rather than from a past reference date, is an intriguing one.

Is it my imagination, or do we not actually find out Genly Ai’s surname until Page 16? Or his given name until Page 30? Le Guin calls him by name in the introduction, but the text of the book proper doesn’t seem to have his name until startlingly late.

Page 37 introduces the FTL ansible communicator, a communications device that can send voices and ideas faster than light, while people travel at mere sublight. This is a significant part of the book – that ideas can traverse the cosmos more easily than people, who must move laboriously and with due respect to Einsteinian Relativity.

The first 3 chapters of the book are clearly setup and they give an intriguing and useful look into the metaphorical world from which Le Guin wants us to look back into our own – a world that in some ways seem to reflect the world of the 21st Century even better than the 1960s she inhabited, a world where ideas travel far more easily than people.

Tomorrow, Chapters 4-7.

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