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Genly Ai is an ethnologist observing the people of the planet Gethen, a world perpetually in winter. The people there are androgynous, normally neuter, but they can become male ot female at the peak of their sexual cycle. They seem to Genly Ai alien, unsophisticated and confusing. But he is drawn into the complex politics of the planet and, during a long, tortuous journey across the ice with a politician who has fallen from favour and has been outcast, he loses his professional detachment and reaches a painful understanding of the true nature of Gethenians and, in a moving and memorable sequence, even finds love…

Reviews

It's a giant thought experiment that's also a cracking good read about gender
Neil Gaiman
Ursula Le Guin is a chemist of the heart
David Mitchell
A rich and complex story of friendship and love
Guardian
Ursula Le Guin was able to reimagine many concepts we take to be natural, shared, and unalterable - gender, utopia, creation, war, family, the city, the country - and reveal the all-too-human constructions at their center ... Literature will miss her. There's no one like her
Zadie Smith