The Left Hand of Darkness is probably Ursula le Guin‘s most famous book. Like Dune, it allows us to explore a complex alien culture through the eyes of a visitor; in this case, the diplomat Genly Ai who has arrived on the planet of Gethen as part of a mission to persuade its inhabitants to join the Ekumen, a loose confederation of planets. Gethen, like Dune‘s Arrakis, has an extreme climate; at one stage, Ai treks with a Gethen native across an ice sheet for 80 days, almost losing his life in the process. And like Dune, we are introduced to an alien religion with prophetic elements. The Left Hand of Darkness is best known as a study of gender—the residents of Gethen take on characteristics of both sexes, but only at certain times, and this has profound impacts on its culture and social hierarchies. Fascinating and thought-provoking.
From our article Books like Dune