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Old 01-15-2019, 06:01 PM   #12
latepaul
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I didn't really enjoy this book. I found it a slog. When it wasn't burying me in endless descriptions of snow and ice* it was filling the page with terms and words from the language(s) of Winter. I think a certain amount of use-the-word-then-explain-it-later works well to help build the world, too much leaves me confused.** And I never really got the whole honour code thing that a lot of the plot depends on.

Oh and the scenes on the farm? Grim.

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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
It is, now, an acknowledged classic, based - as I understand it - on its treatment of gender. But my reading of it is that the gender aspects were not originally intended to be of the strength since ascribed to them. Rather, like most science fiction, the entire story is a "what if" question of which gender is just one aspect.
This makes sense because I really felt like as well as being far less nuanced than I thought it would be, there was actually very little that dealt with the gender stuff directly. I mean there's one scene where Estraven seems surprised that roles are determined by sex in Genly's world, but that's about it. Apart from that we get a lot of noticing of feminine/masculine traits based on stereotypes of personality.

I did read in one of the three introductions in my copy, that LeGuin intended the masculine pronouns to stand for generic ones and later regretted it. I do think it would have made it more striking if the Winter natives were constantly referred to as they/them or something. It would have jarred in a good way.

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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
It's heteronormative and what comes across as extremely biased in its attitudes toward women.
Exactly. I gave it a partial pass because of its time. She also copped to not exploring same-sex relationships.

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Aside from that, I thought the world-building was tedious; it was far too much tell and not show.
Agree.

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I agree that the relationship between Genly and Estraven was central to the story, but I didn't think there was enough plot. Once you strip out the world-building, both Genly's exegesis and the supporting historical and mythical texts, there was very little story left.
Not enough plot and of what there was was confusing or gruesome.

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Originally Posted by Dazrin View Post
My initial thoughts on the introduction, which was written in 1976 about 7 years after the book was published, is that it felt like she thought that her work needed defending and/or explaining. Despite winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Were current discussions of the book not hitting her expectations? Did people (do we) just not get what she was going for?

Edit: Explaining isn't the right word. She didn't try to explain the book in the introduction (thankfully) but she was trying to explain why the book was written as it was and the tone was defensive.
The introduction by China Mieville (I looked it up) quotes some later articles and interviews with her. It seems she got criticism from feminists for not going far enough. He praises her for taking that criticism seriously whilst letting the work itself stand unchanged. He also quotes her as saying that her initial defence that the book wasn't really about the gender issues was 'bluster' saying,

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I had opened a can of worms and was trying hard to shut it
Like issybird I'm glad I've read it as it is considered so seminal, however I can't say I enjoyed much of it. Some of the mythic story parts and some of the relationship between Estraven and Genly.



*(whilst reading chapter 18 I accidentally skipped forward to 19 and didn't realise for several pages!)

**(it would have helped if the section at the end of the book about the days of the week and months and so on were at the beginning not the end. The first chapter of Estraven's journal I thought the bits in italics were other characters, that he was describing their place in the hierarchy. It took about 3 pages to realise they were days.)
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