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Lathe of Heaven (Sf Masterworks 44) by…
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Lathe of Heaven (Sf Masterworks 44) (original 1971; edition 2001)

by Ursula K Le Guin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,339641,627 (3.98)2 / 153
Member:eleanor_eader
Title:Lathe of Heaven (Sf Masterworks 44)
Authors:Ursula K Le Guin
Info:Millennium Paperbacks (2001), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, science fiction, dystopia

Work details

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (1971)

  1. 20
    The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Science fiction about the technological control of sleeping dreams. They're just dreams, right? What could go wrong?
  2. 20
    Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem (ahstrick)
  3. 13
    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (storyjunkie)
    storyjunkie: Both books carry a philosophical weight to their world-saving. A similar atmosphere to their protagonists, worlds, and occupancy of a more soul-searching lot in the science fiction spectrum make them nicely complementary to each other.
  4. 03
    The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (The_Kat_Cache)
    The_Kat_Cache: The Lathe of Heaven is chock-full of Taoist principles. This book elaborates on the philosophy in an easily accessible manner.
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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This was a fun read. I was a little put off at first. I've read some of Le Guin's shorts and was irritated by her keep-the-reader-in-the-dark style. She does this thing that is the reverse of how it should be: she'll refrain from information in the most important places. I both like it and don't like it. I like that she does it, but don't like the way she does it, for along with becoming vague she gets abstract. But that's all commentary on her overall style, not this particular work, which is a damn fine piece.

There was a little trepidation on my part because it seemed like the book was another social commentary on what the world would be like if humanity continues its self-immolating ways. I thought it was going to be another leftist, pro-socialist, finger-pointing book that would illustrate what would happen if we did not fall in line with government control and this erroneous idea of altruism. But that, thankfully, was not the case. In fact I was pleasantly surprised at the philosophical underpinnings of this great work. I'm not going to get into it here because I'd hate to rob anyone of the experience of thinking about it for themselves.

I was most of all glad for the non-political aspect, for though it seemed to head in that direction in the first twenty or so pages, it stayed very clear of all the political claptrap that can bog down a creative work. Also you'll have to suspend disbelief a bit more than usual because it was published in '71. It illustrates just how inane all the fears about overpopulation and global catastrophe have always been, and clues us in to the tactics of certain political interests to push an agenda based on those imagined fears...Anyhoo...

All that to say: Highly recommended for the thinking reader.
( )
  DanielAlgara | Sep 26, 2014 |
My edition is by Blackstone, but was downloaded from the local library. The reader was excellent, but I really would have liked it if they could have put the actual Beatles' tune in.

This review contains overall spoilers, I've only hidden specific ones. It's a 40 year old book & has had 2 movies based on it, so unless you've been living under a rock [as far as the SF genre goes], you'll probably know most of it.

This is a tough review to write because there are just so many threads running through the book. It's absolutely masterful & strikes me differently each time I read it. I first read it sometime in the 70's, not long after it came out. That was a different time in many ways. Pollution in the cities was at its height, a global nuclear conflict was a real possibility. While we no longer practiced air raid drills by hiding under desks or in hallways, they were still pretty fresh in my mind. A big push was on for ZPG (Zero Population Growth) & environmental activism was really getting going.

In the story, every change addresses another theme including, but not limited to eugenics, racial prejudice, diversity, & more. She did this with just a few characters, too.

LeGuin got the future both right & wrong, but her mistakes made her points as well or better than her successes. Global warming when scientists were thinking we would create global cooling by air pollution reflecting too much. Her figures for overpopulation were very low. A global population of 7 billion had us all on practically starvation diets while we now have that many & are fat & happy here in the U.S., in large part due to scientific advances & genetic tampering (wheat designed to resist rust). Inflation was a bit of comic relief. A super expensive vacation home was $100K, then an outrageous figure. Now, pretty cheap.

Generally, this book is a parable about the unintended consequences, sort of an updated version of [b:The Monkey's Paw|8779896|The Monkey's Paw|W.W. Jacobs|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348984485s/8779896.jpg|21964555], of allowing science & technology fix our ills. Society & science are personified in George Orr, the every man, & Dr. William Haber, the scientist. Orr wants to leave things as they are, except in the most dire of circumstances, while Haber wants to fix the obvious ills (racial prejudice, overpopulation, etc.) of the world. The mechanism for change is Orr's dreams which are controlled by his unreasoning mind, his subconscious. It may seem like an obvious recipe for disaster, but Haber believes he can control the situation & things are so bad that they hardly seem as if they can get worse.

By all the tests, Orr is The Average Man, both mentally & physically. He endures & is practically without ambition. He's so easy-going that I want to kick him half the time, yet wind up caring more for him & his plight than Haber. Orr is like a puppy, he can't help his circumstances & brings out the paternal instinct. That same instinct makes me wish he'd grow up & stand up for himself, though. He's perfectly named, too. George Orr immediately brings to mind [a:George Orwell|3706|George Orwell|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1175614486p2/3706.jpg] & his most famous books championing the every man, [b:Animal Farm & 1984|5472|Animal Farm & 1984|George Orwell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327959366s/5472.jpg|2966408].

Haber is a personable doctor, a shrink, so really does want to help people, but has a huge ego & believes he knows more than he really does - a pert near perfect characterization. His addiction to power & success is understandable. While he's shown in the worst light, I still liked him. He wasn't always wrong & I shared his frustration with Orr.

I know the overall story is pretty well spoiled, but the following discusses specifics.

I loved how Haber discovered the reality of Orr's power. It was so perfectly staged. A snow capped Mt Hood gets replaced with a true picture which was created from the dream's pile of horse shit. That pretty much spelled out the rest of the story. LOL!

The slipperiness of memory was very well done. The way Haber could remember certain things, but could also forget - wishful thinking perfectly portrayed. It made so much sense in the context of the story. It was truly chilling how he blamed Orr for screwing things up when he was personally in danger, but didn't seem upset at all when billions died, even though he lost his entire family.

I loved how few characters she had: Orr & Dr. Haber are most of the story, of course. Heather & an alien (they're completely interchangeable, so I count them as 1) to make some points. Manny, the old stoner. He doesn't do much but is kind of fun.


There have been 2 movies made from this book. I've seen the 1980 PBS version. It was really good, especially considering its low budget & LeGuin approved of it. I've never seen the 2002 remake & don't intend to since I've heard from too many sources that it changed things & not for the better.
Wikipedia has a pretty good write-up here, but be careful of spoilers:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lathe_of_Heaven

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's short, but not necessarily a quick read, especially on a re-read when you can take time to think over some of the points. There are plenty to think over, especially when you think about how we're keeping so many people alive today. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
The Lathe of Heaven was the first Le Guin novel I ever read, and in many ways it is the speculative fiction novel I had always been waiting for. That's because it is just so marvelously written, in addition to being wildly imaginative and deeply engaging. Le Guin, I discovered, is the sort of writer that could write anything and I'd gladly read it, and this became clear within the first two pages of the book.

Le Guin's greatest achievement in The Lathe of Heaven, however, is that it all just feels so real (and this in a book with continuum-shifting dreaming and an invasion of extraterrestial turtles). The characters, and the protagonist George Orr in particular, are believably portrayed and psychologically complex. The characters' actions and the turns of the plot follow naturally though not entirely predictably upon one another. And the world itself is immersive and detailed, in spite of its frequent oneiric rearrangings.

It is this visceral reality of Le Guin's impossible fiction that gives The Lathe of Heaven its this-worldly literary impact. The near-novella hits on countless issues in its less-than-two-hundred pages (everything from geo- and global politics to Taoist spirituality), but more than anything else it is an exploration of moral responsibility. Through its imaginative set-up, Le Guin creates a mutually opposed protagonist-and-antagonist pair, neither of which is straightforwardly blameworthy for his actions, or straightforwardly innocent, either. In this moral morass Le Guin asks us to contemplate what a concerned agent can and should do.

It is a powerful and thought-provoking question, and The Lathe of Heaven poses it in a powerful and thought-provoking way which is also eminently readable and thoroughly enjoyable. ( )
1 vote williecostello | Mar 11, 2014 |
This is one of the best science fiction books I've ever encountered, and just about the only INTELLIGENT science fiction i have ever seen adapted to television or movie forms.

A masterwork of ontological possibilities. . . ( )
  mattakunobaka | Feb 5, 2014 |
This novel does not fit neatly into any given category. It has elements of philosophy, fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and more. A bare bones description doesn't really convey the sense of what's going on, or how the reader is drawn along despite themselves. It's a wonderful book, that can be read and interpreted in many different ways. Which has been shown by two movies, both good, and yet very different, adapted from the novel. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Jan 29, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sappinen, Jorma-VeikkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Confucius and you are both dreams, and I who say you are dreams am in a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a wise man may explain it; that tomorrow will not be for ten thousand generations. -- Chuang Tse: II
Dedication
First words
Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss.
Quotations
'Hello,' he said again.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The plot revolves around a character whose dreams alter reality.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060512741, Paperback)

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of science fiction's greatest writers. She is also an acclaimed author of powerful and perceptive nonfiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. She has received many honors, including six Nebula and five Hugo Awards, the National Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Newbery, the Pilgrim, the Tiptree, and citations by the American Library Association. She has written over a dozen highly regarded novels and story collections. Her SF masterworks are The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), The Dispossessed (1974), and The Lathe of Heaven (1971).

George Orr has dreams that come true--dreams that change reality. He dreams that the aunt who is sexually harassing him is killed in a car crash, and wakes to find that she died in a wreck six weeks ago, in another part of the country. But a far darker dream drives George into the care of a psychotherapist--a dream researcher who doesn't share George's ambivalence about altering reality.

The Lathe of Heaven is set in the sort of worlds that one would associate with Philip K. Dick, but Ms. Le Guin's treatment of the material, her plot and characterization and concerns, are more akin to the humanistic, ethically engaged, psychologically nuanced fiction of Theodore Sturgeon. The Lathe of Heaven is an insightful and chilling examination of total power, of war and injustice and other age-old problems, of changing the world, of playing God. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George's dreams for his own purposes."--Publisher description.… (more)

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