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Lathe of Heaven (Sf Masterworks 44) by…

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

by Ursula K Le Guin

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3,700841,415 (3.99)2 / 196
Title:Lathe of Heaven (Sf Masterworks 44)
Authors:Ursula K Le Guin
Info:Millennium Paperbacks (2001), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, science fiction, dystopia

Work details

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

  1. 20
    Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem (ahstrick)
  2. 10
    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?
  3. 00
    The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant (sturlington)
    sturlington: Alternate realities accessed through dreams.
  4. 23
    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.
  5. 02
    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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English (79)  French (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (83)
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Robert Orr has what he calls "effective" dreams - they affect the world around him. He will have a dream, and when he wakes, reality has adjusted to match his dream. Only he is aware that anything has changed - he can remember life both with and without the dream's changes. He is sent to a psychiatrist, who specializes in dreams and has equipment that allows him a degree of control over the dreams. The psychiatrist starts manipulating Orr's dreams to his own ends, and Orr must figure out how to make it stop.

The book takes place in a climate-change affected world, where overpopulation has led to a scarcity of resources. At least, until Orr dreams up a new reality...

The story raises questions about "the greater good" and whether the ends justify the means, and what sacrifices humans are willing to make for safety and security.

It's a very compelling read - I couldn't put it down. In the end, Le Guin doesn't really say anything new about the question of whether the ends justify the means, but it was still an interesting thought experiment. ( )
1 vote Gwendydd | Apr 1, 2016 |
As you dream, so shall it be! And Le Guin's fine book, demonstrates why that isn't as wonderful a wish as one might think! They made a TV movie out of it, but I don't think it made a fine transition to the small screen. To quote a better piece of filmed escapism,"With great power comes great responsibility!"
I've read this book twice, and as with most of this author's books, it bore up very well to that test. ( )
1 vote DinadansFriend | Mar 29, 2016 |
Quite an enjoyable book full of ideas. What if your dreams could really change reality? Could the resulting world ever be better, or does entropy prevail causing everything to crumble? Does it matter if you're well intentioned in your meddling? This was a quick read, but thoughtful as well. ( )
1 vote duchessjlh | Mar 9, 2016 |
George Orr
George Orr, a draftsman in Portland, Oregon, has long been abusing drugs to prevent himself from dreaming effectively. Under threat of being placed in an asylum, Orr is forced to undergo "voluntary" psychiatric care for his drug abuse.

Set in circa 2002, greenhouse warming has taken hold, along with overpopulation, famine, malnutrition, global warming, and urban blight. Portland has three million inhabitants and continuous rain. It is deprived enough for the poorer inhabitants to have Kwashiorkor, protein-deprivation, as in Harry Harrison's SF novel Make Room! Make Room!.

The culture is much the same as the 1970s USA, though impoverished. Hippies are still around, some still living and dressing exactly as they did in the 1960s. There is also a massive war in the Middle East, with Egypt and Israel allied against Iran.

[edit] Haber
George begins attending therapy sessions with an ambitious psychiatrist and sleep researcher named William Haber. Orr claims that he has the power to dream "effectively" and Haber seeks to use it to change the world. His experiments with a biofeedback/EEG machine, nicknamed the Augmentor, enhance Orr's abilities and produce a series of increasingly intolerable alternate worlds, based on an assortment of utopian (and dystopian) premises familiar from other science fiction works:

When Haber directs George to dream a world without racism, the skin of everyone on the planet becomes a uniform light gray.
An attempt to solve the problem of overpopulation proves disastrous when George dreams a devastating plague which wiped out much of humanity and gives the current world a population of one billion rather than seven billion.
George attempts to dream into existence "peace on Earth" - resulting in an alien invasion of the Moon which unites all the nations of Earth against the threat.

[edit] Doubts
Each effective dream gives Haber more wealth and status, until late in the book where he is effectively ruler of the world. Orr's economic status also improves, but he is unhappy with Haber's meddling and just wants to let things be. Increasingly frightened by Haber's lust for power and delusions of Godhood, Orr seeks out a lawyer named Heather to represent him against Haber. He falls in love with Heather, and even marries her in one reality; however, this effort is unsuccessful in getting him out of therapy.

George tells Heather that the "real world" had been destroyed in a nuclear war in April 1998. George dreamed it back into existence as he lay dying in the ruins. He doubts the reality of what now exists, hence his fear of Haber's efforts to improve it. The war apparently escalated from a conflict between Egypt and Israel - presumably George dreamt an alternative history in which they somehow became allies.

Portland and Mount Hood play a central role in the setting of the novelHeather has seen one change and has a multiple memory - remembering that her pilot husband either died early in the Middle East War or else died just before the truce that ended the war in the face of the alien threat. She tries to help George but also tries to improve the world, saying that the aliens should no longer be on the Moon. George dreams this, but this results in them having invaded the Earth instead. In the resultant fighting, Mount Hood is struck and the dormant volcano starts to erupt again.

They go back to Haber, who has George dream another dream in which the aliens are actually peaceful. For a time there is stability, but Haber goes on changing things. His suggestion that George dream away racism results in everyone becoming gray. Heather, whose parents were of different races, never existed in this new reality. George manages to dream up a gray version of her, married to him and with a less prickly personality. Mount Hood continues to erupt and he fears the world is losing coherence.

[edit] Results
Eventually, Haber becomes frustrated with Orr's resistance and decides to take on effective dreaming himself. Haber's first effective dream represents a significant break with the realities created by Orr, and threatens to destroy reality altogether. Orr is able to shut off the Augmentor - even as coherent existence is falling apart - reaching the "off" switch through pure force of will. The world (universe?) is saved, but random bits of the various recent realities are now jumbled together. Haber's mind is left broken. Heather, presumably her original self, exists, though with only a slight memory of George.

[edit] Viewpoints
"One of the best novels, and most important to understanding of the nature of our world, is Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, in which the dream universe is articulated in such a striking and compelling way that I hesitate to add any further explanation to it; it requires none."
—Philip K. Dick[3]
Though technology plays a minor role, the novel is largely concerned with philosophical questions about our desire to control our destiny, with Haber's positivist approach pitted against a Taoist equanimity. The beginnings of the chapters also feature quotes from H.G. Wells, Victor Hugo and Taoist sages. Due to its portrayal of psychologically-derived alternate realities, it has often been described as Le Guin's tribute to Philip K. Dick.[4] In his biography of Dick, Lawrence Sutin described Le Guin as having "long been a staunch public advocate of Phil's talent". According to Sutin, "The Lathe of Heaven was, by her own acknowledgment, markedly influenced by his [Dick's] 'Sixties works."[5]

The book is critical of behaviorism.[6] Orr, a deceptively mild yet very strong and honest man, is labeled sick because he is immensely frightened by his ability to change reality. He is forced to undergo therapy whether he wants to or not. His efforts to rid himself of Haber are viewed as suspect because he is a psychiatric patient. Haber, meanwhile, is very charming, extroverted, and confident, yet it is he who eventually goes insane and almost destroys reality. He dismisses Orr's qualms about meddling with reality with paternalistic psychobabble, and is more concerned with his machine and Orr's powers than with curing his patient.

1 vote bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
A re-read, of course.
It's been quite a few years since I revisited this one. I have to admit, it's not my favorite book by LeGuin - so I nearly gave it 4 stars just because I do think most of her work is better. However, in the grand scheme of all-the-books-out-there, and considering its place in the history of science fiction - it really does deserve 5.

It's very much an 'idea' book.
The premise: George Orr, an unexceptional man in other ways, has come to believe that his dreams come true. This isn't as good as it sounds: it's not like he has control over what he dreams. And not all dreams are pleasant... or moral.
In search of a cure, he goes to a psychologist. As one might expect, the sleep specialist is skeptical at first - but soon becomes a believer. Rather than attempting to cure Orr, he seeks to use Orr's ability to both aggrandize himself and improve the world.
Disturbed that his therapist is using him as a tool against his will, Orr next seeks out a lawyer. She's not sure if there's anything she can do to help - but she's willing to try. Orr gradually develops a relationship with her, through a shifting series of realities...

The characters of Orr, Dr. Haber, and the lawyer Heather LeLache are complex and believable, even though they are somewhat representative of 'types.' The dystopic visions of possible futures, somewhat eerily, barely feel dated at all. Our concerns haven't changed much (or rather, LeGuin was quite prescient about what our real problems would be.)

The main theme of the book is the ethics of the use of power. It discusses and shows various arguments and aspects of the topic, without giving any quick and easy answers. Thought-provoking and worthwhile.

Diversion Books has just released this book in e-book format for the first time; and NetGalley provided me with a copy. Time to update from that old paperback! ( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sappinen, Jorma-VeikkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
First words
Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss.
'Hello,' he said again.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:33 -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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