The Left Hand of Darkness is the story of Genly Ai, an intergalactic ambassador to Gethen, a frigid planet whose inhabitants are without a static gender. It focuses on his struggles with both the intricate political customs of the Gethenians and their fluid gender roles. While the plot is intriguing and the setting interesting, the true mastery to be found here is in the message. I found myself contemplating how easily I use gender or even cultural differences as a shortcut, and how these misconceptions keep us from truly knowing each other as individuals. When Genly is forced to reject his preconceived ideas of gender in order to successfully communicate with the Gethenians, he learns a new knowledge both of these people and of himself. Le Guin is one of science fiction's grandmasters and this novel is a fine example of why.
While on a mission to the planet Gethen, a world whose inhabitants can change their gender, earthling Genly Ai is sent by leaders of the nation of Orgoreyn to a concentration camp from which the exiled prime minister of the nation of Karhide tries to rescue him, in a new edition of the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning classic. Reprint.