* This suggestion is part of our Sweater Weather Reads series. On Twitter @BSPLibrary #sweaterweatherreads, we’ll be posting cool suggestions to snuggle up with all winter long. Got a frosty favorite? We’d love to hear from you. *
Winter. 20 degrees below zero. Snow 10 feet high. Break out those sweaters, baby, because it’s cold outside! Winter is not just a season in Le Guin’s Hugo and Nebula Award-winning book, it is the name of a planet. Those conditions I mentioned in the first line? That is the weather most of the year on planet Winter, or as the humans who live there call it, Gethen. This planet is waaaayyyyy out on the edge of the galaxy and is in the middle of an ice age, but humans live there and have for millennia.
Long ago – tens of thousands of years – humans spread throughout the galaxy. Slowly, the human populated planets began to form an alliance for trading and cultural exchange. This alliance, called the Ekumen, actively seeks for forgotten, human-colonized, planets so they can be invited into the group. Gethen is one of these lost planets and Genly Ai is the envoy sent to invite them to join. Needless to say, not everyone on Gethen jumps at the chance to join the Ekumen. In fact, they never even knew humans existed elsewhere, so Genly’s arrival is met with skepticism and fear.
This book is a slow starter. You will not get hit with action from page one, or even page 50. It took me about half the book to really get into it, but once I did, I was hooked! I was really invested in the characters by that half-way point and I miss them now that the book is over. To me, that is the mark of a truly good book. It is full of political intrigue, philosophical ponderings, and by the end, a perilous journey through the frozen wastes. Ultimately, it is a story of friendship, endurance, and the common bond of humanity that we all share.