“The unexpected is what makes life possible.” —Estraven in The Left Hand of Darkness
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) is about the necessity of perspective. In it, Genly Ai, an envoy from an association of worlds populated by the Hainish progenitor race, has traveled to an icy planet of androgynes to recruit them to share in humanity’s knowledge. He joins with a political exile, Estraven, and the two must transcend their ethical boundaries in order to not only survive, but to save Estraven’s people from themselves. Like many of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, it’s a gorgeous and thoughtful study in anthropology, politics, and philosophy which challenged ideas about gender at a time when second-wave feminism was entering the public consciousness.