Book Corner 2021.41

by Ursula LeGuin

This is a re-read for me for book club. I first read this back in the early 90s on Aunt Alice’s recommendation. She thought I would get a kick out of the genderlessness. I had a lot of gender eShoes back then.

But I had not remembered anything about it other than the central conceit, so I went in fresh. It started out badly, for me. I’m not a fan of classic sci-fi. It always feels so pretentious. All the laborious exposition. I’m just not into the high concepts. & this one started out with a lot of politics which I found inscrutable.

It took off in the second half. The earthling and the alien bond during an arduous polar trek.

So, for those who DIDN’T have an aunt to introduce them to this classic and hence may not know the central conceit: the beings on this planet are hermaphroditic. For most of the month they are neither male nor female; then they enter “kemmer”, or heat, and take on one or the other gender. The main character is from our planet or some semblance thereof and is an envoy trying to get them to join an interplanetary alliance. He’s put off by the weird gender-bending, and starts out as annoyingly misogynist. But he gets woke.

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