Winter must be the season of feminist science fiction or something, because both these stories start on icy worlds.
I had high hopes for Left Hand of Darkness, and wasn't disappointed, in the end. The story follows a more familiar sort of human named Genry Ai, who goes around on a planet named Gethen, or Winter, trying to fulfill the mission of having the planet join an inter-galactic pan-humanist sort of organization called the Ekumen. In between, intrigue, exile, long bitterly cold journeys and love happens. The story started a bit slow for my liking, and the exposition is quite heavy. I'm not sure if this is just because Le Guin was writing this from a different era, when novels were less like the new TV, or if it was just a quirk of this book. The story does pick up when the action sequence starts, though, and culminates in a breath-taking climax that fully justifies the title Left Hand of Darkness. (Spoilers: the left hand of darkness is light.) I think the story is a quieter, more ponderous exploration of sex, the body, and cold and light than an action-adventure story set in space, though it is that too. But mostly it's about bodies, how they occupy space, how they freeze and thirst and starve, never joining together physically in the story, but ultimately coming together as one. It was a slow read, but a good one, and slowly I think it is at least as good as The Dispossessed, though it was a very different sort of book.
As for Ancillary Sword, I'm not sure anything I write can do this book justice. Sequel to Ancillary Justice, gender ambiguous pronouns in space opera plus action plus post-colonialist discourse plus witty, realistic, intelligent characters all around made for a fast and extremely satisfying read. I'd buy this book for all my friends if I could afford it. Though one could complain it's less...ponderous than Le Guin, and perhaps lacking the same sort of depth that a focus on one person on one planet would result in. They are very different books, though, even if one might categorize them both as feminist sci-fi. One is a mystical exploration of sex with no sex happening on screen at all, and the other is a post-colonialist space opera where everyone is gendered as female until otherwise notified. Both definitely worth the read, I think.
Finally, on a very different note, what is up with Harry Styles' hair??