Synopsis: Set on Gethen, the same planet as in Le Guin’s phenomenous Hainish novel Left Hand of Darkness, the story follows the teenager Sov Thade Tage em Ereb as xhe grows into adulthood and awaits xer first kemmer. Gethen has been seeded as a genetic experiment ages ago, where humans are sequentially hermaphroditic – for twenty four days during xeir somer phase they are androgynes, followed by a few days of sexuality where they can choose xeir gender in the kemmer phase. Sov and xer cousin Sether discuss their distasting experience with mood swings and bodily transformation. But then, emotions in the kemmerhouse are quite different, and she experiences different sexual adventures.
Review: First of all, if you haven’t read Left Hand of Darkness, DO. IT. NOW
This story is a very welcomed addition to the famous novel. It is quite different – for one, it doesn’t follow an alien narrator like Genly Ai but tells the story from the point of view of the native Gethen person Sov. And far more important, it explores the sexuality in a way that wouldn’t have been acceptable for a 60s novel. Once again, it demonstrates how different aliens can be though looking alike Earth’s humans. Its sexual topics and descriptions might be challenging for readers, but I found it very fitting. The ending was very satisfying and human with a “love is love” whether a person is in kemmer or not. Le Guin asks here, if life with a constant sexual drive (i.e. ours) is not strange, indeed.