The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin

Illustrated by David Lupton

Introduced by Becky Chambers

The first illustrated edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterpiece, The Left Hand of Darkness. The Folio Society edition also includes an introduction by Becky Chambers and exquisite illustrations by David Lupton.

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Described by Margaret Atwood as ‘one of the literary greats’ and by Stephen King as ‘a literary icon’, Ursula K. Le Guin stands as a colossus in the field of speculative fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness won multiple awards, including the Hugo for best novel, making Le Guin the first woman to win it; appropriate indeed, given that her extraordinary novel of betrayal, loyalty, love and survival was to change the conversation about gender for ever. In her introduction, novelist Becky Chambers – herself nominated for both the Clarke Award and the Hugo – calls the book ‘a titan’, one that gave rise to new perspectives on what fiction could be.

‘No single work did more to upend the genre’s conventions than The Left Hand of Darkness.

  1. Paris Review

Bound in printed and blocked cloth

Set in Poliphilus

288 pages

Integrated title double-page spread and 14 black & white integrated illustrations

Printed endpapers

Printed slipcase with spot UV varnish

9½˝ x 6¼˝

I was alone, with a stranger, inside the walls of a dark palace, in a strange snow-changed city, in the heart of the Ice Age of an alien world

Genly Ai is an Envoy, a diplomat sent to make first contact with inhabited planets. Winter, a world locked in a perpetual ice age, is a particularly daunting challenge: its people are androgynous, only taking on male or female sexual characteristics during ‘kemmer’, a monthly period of change and arousal. Struggling to understand the intricacies of a society where anyone could be both mother and father to multiple children, Genly is soon caught in the dangerous machinations of politicians and kings who care little for his life, or the potential life beyond their planet. He is left with little choice but to flee across a vast ice sheet, a journey dangerous enough for a native of Winter, let alone a human ill adapted to extreme cold. Yet with survival and desperation comes trust, and Genly gains a new understanding of Winter and its people. 

Like the layers of snow, ice and rock that make up Winter, The Left Hand of Darkness is a novel of many layers. Le Guin’s lifelong interest in anthropology and cultural diversity is the bedrock of every page, with chapters devoted to Winter’s mythology, oral history and folk stories. Winter itself, where the habitable stretch of land is always in danger of being suffocated by ice, feels utterly real – Le Guin crafts a world of lethal beauty and completely believable complexity. David Lupton, who provided the illustrations for the Folio edition of A Wizard of Earthsea, returns with a series of sensitive and intimate black and white artworks. Le Guin herself was closely involved in directing the look and feel of this edition, with the binding, slipcase and endpapers specially designed to invoke the icy atmosphere of Winter. 

About Ursula K. Le Guin 

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018) was born in Berkeley and lived in Portland, Oregon. She published 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, 4 collections of essays, 12 books for children, 6 volumes of poetry and 4 translated works, and received many honours and awards, including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, a National Book Award and the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A Wizard of Earthsea (1968; Folio Society 2015, 2022) is her best-known work; it is the first book of Earthsea, which includes The Tombs of Atuan (1971; Folio Society 2022), The Farthest Shore (1972; Folio Society 2022), Tehanu (1990; Folio Society 2023), Tales from Earthsea (2001; Folio Society 2023) and The Other Wind (2001). Her Hugo Award-winning novels, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974) are also available as Folio editions (2018). Her most recent publications were Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2010 (2012) and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Short Stories (2012).

About Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers is the author of the Wayfarers novels, which include The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2015), A Closed and Common Orbit (2016) and Record of a Spaceborn Few (2018). Her books have been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, among others. She also writes essays and short stories, and lives in northern California.

About David Lupton

David Lupton is a London-based illustrator. He studied Illustration at the University of Portsmouth before completing an MA in Sequential Illustration at the University of Brighton. His work is hand-drawn and painted with only the slightest digital enhancement. He has created work for many commercial briefs, including editorial illustration, children’s picture books, music video design and animation, and record cover artwork. Lupton has illustrated a number of books for Folio, including The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (2015). He worked closely with Ursula K. Le Guin to illustrate the Folio edition A Wizard of Earthsea (2015), and continued to realise the author’s vision after Le Guin passed away, illustrating The Left Hand of Darkness (2018), The Dispossessed (2019), The Tombs of Atuan (2022) and The Farthest Shore (2022), Tehanu (2023), Tales from Earthsea (2023) and The Other Wind (2024).


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