I should have really loved this book.
I like science fiction. I should love anything by Ursula K. LeGuin. But the honest truth is – I don’t. In fact, I have never really enjoyed anything she has written, including ‘A Wrinkle In Time’.
Not really sure what the reasons is. Maybe it is because everyone (all my friends) made such a fuss about A Wrinkle In Time when it came out (yes, I was a child then) and I have always been a bit of a rebel. Maybe it is just that I don’t care all that much for her writing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way and I am also sure that she is OK with that.
I guess the big thing for me is that I really don’t feel all that close to her characters. Somehow they seem distant and cold to me, but when I saw this in Brilliant Books in Traverse City I thought ‘ah, ha, this is my chance to redeem myself. there is undoubtedly tons of hidden meaning in this and I will finally recognize Ursala K. LeGuin as the genius she is’.
Oh well, so much for thinking I will change.
I don’t want to spoil it for you but light is the left hand of darkness, and I have no idea what this has to do with the story. It is set on a planet where it is winter 51 weeks out of the year. A representative of ‘human kind’ has been landed on the planet to invite the folks who live there to become members of the galactic federation (I can’t remember what it is actually called, which says something about the story). What he finds is a fragmented planet with two main waring nations (even though they don’t have actual wars). He starts with one, then has to (more or less) flee to the other and is eventually thrown into a penal colony and has to be rescued by the only important figure on that planet who understand that he is for real.
Now if I were writing the story this is the point where star ships would descend from the heavens shooting lasers and all kinds of things all over the place while The Rock or Bruce Willis lands secretly and breaks this guy out of prison. But I am not writing this story. in the end, the guy who breaks our Earth ‘hero’ out ends up getting killed for no apparent purpose.
Oh, did I mention that the people on this planet are unisex? there are no males or females, and they only occasionally go into a sexual state. I guess the idea of the book is to show how weird it would be to deal with ‘people’ who were not sexual animals but it just seemed boring to me. I never connected with the characters. The Earth character was aloof and cold, sort of like Sting without a guitar. Or a personality. But he did have an almost unerring ability to misunderstand what was happening and to not ask any questions that might have clarified the situation. And don’t get me started on the citizens of the winter planet. Just a bit too freaky for me.
Without a doubt, Ursula K. LeGuin is one of the literary giants of the late 20th, early 21st century. And, without a doubt, what it is that makes her great escapes me. Maybe I should go back and read A Wrinkle In Time again.