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The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,6491721,484 (4.02)2 / 299
George Orr is a man who discovers he has the peculiar ability to dream things into being -- for better or for worse. In desperation, he consults a psychotherapist who promises to help him -- but who, it soon becomes clear, has his own plans for George and his dreams. The Lathe of Heaven is a dark vision and a warning -- a fable of power uncontrolled and uncontrollable. It is a truly prescient and startling view of humanity, and the consequences of playing God.… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, itvuuob, marina11, plhelmer, timefornewtoys, SammyMBio, zem01, SwatiRavi, quavmo
Legacy LibrariesLeslie Scalapino
  1. 30
    Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem (ahstrick)
  2. 10
    The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant (sturlington)
    sturlington: Alternate realities accessed through dreams.
  3. 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?
  4. 33
    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. 00
    Death by Dreaming by Jon Manchip White (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Same plot: Doctor exploits a patient whose dreams overlap waking life. Unlike Le Guin's good guy/bad guy suspense story with a twist, though, Manchip White's dwells on vivid unsettling dreams and their disturbing RL parallels.
  6. 04
    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 (163)  French (2)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (170)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
A Book You Can Finish In A Day

Despite not accomplishing that feat, it can be done and is well worth the effort. As I've said in other reviews, I'm not generally a fan of science fiction. With all the books on my To Read list, I'm reluctant to suffer the typically sub-par writing of the genre for what might prove an interesting story when I can have both. The Lathe of Heaven, however, is well-written and engaging.

Ursula K. Le Guin's tale, published in 1971, centers on George Orr, a draftsman living in early 21st century Portland, Oregon, who discovers that his dreams change reality. George is the only person aware that the new reality has replaced the old — for everyone else, the new reality has always been reality. In the dystopian world George inhabits, all the worst predictions of the paranoid '70s have come true. The world is overpopulated, the climate has collapsed (the climate seems to always be collapsing - I remember reading that in the late 1800's it was predicted that London would be buried under sever feet of horse manure. Sage prognosticators didn't foresee the coming of the internal combustion engine), and an Orwellian government runs the country. George is caught fraudulently obtaining drugs using his friend's insurance card in a failed attempt to avoid dreaming, then forced to see a psychiatrist under a court-imposed Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment plan. When George dreams "effectively" with the assistance of Dr. Haber and once again changes reality, the good doctor realizes the power of George's gift and begins manipulating reality through George's dreams.

The constantly changing reality is revealed abruptly through Le Guin's habit of jumping into a new reality without stating that a change has occurred, then slowly providing details which reveal that a change has occurred. This forces the reader to experience the shifts simultaneously with George, as though they too are waking up from his dream. I found George's inability to keep straight which reality was the original version especially effective at conveying his confusion.

I won't reveal the rest of the story, only say that Le Guin effectively recycles the adage that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ( )
  skavlanj | May 19, 2022 |
[[Le Guin]] is a legend in the Science Fiction canon, but someone I'd never tried before - this title seemed to be the one most recommended as a starting place. The story, set in the near future, deals with George Orr, a man who has the ability to change reality with his dreams. Despondent over the abilities effects, Orr self-medicates and is eventually mandated for mental health care. When the psychiatrist realizes Orr's power, he begins to use the man for his own purposes, changing the world to be what he considers a better place but also to help himself. The tricky tale shows off Le Guin's keen intellect, and is a study on the nature of reality.

4 bones!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | May 3, 2022 |
I enjoyed this book. It had an interesting premise and intriguing moral questions. However, I never cared about any of the characters. Overall, I would recommend to sci-fi fans. ( )
  queenofthebobs | Mar 11, 2022 |
Ursula Le Guin's wild imagination created a story that makes one think. In The Lathe of Heaven George Orr finds that his dreams are happening, becoming reality. Not just for him but changing the whole world. George dreams and the past changes, wars and famines that never happened are part of the world's history when he wakes up. An unscrupulous psychologists tries to bend George's dreams to his own purposes. Le Guin shows us a strange world from her imagination. After reading this I am glad that our dreams can't make things come true when we wake. ( )
  MMc009 | Jan 30, 2022 |
George Orr is about as average a human being as anyone could be: mild-mannered, of middle intelligence and living a seemingly unremarkable life. In one respect, though, he is unique: his dreams—or rather, some of his dreams, special “effective” dreams—alter reality and he wakes next morning to find the world transformed.
. Early on I thought this was a “be careful what you wish for” story, similar to H G Wells’s The Man Who Could Work Miracles say, but it’s more intricately put together. George’s problem is that, since all this happens while he is sleeping, he has no conscious control over it and the resulting alterations to reality are unplanned, sort of random—and terrifying. He has resorted to drugs in an attempt to stop himself dreaming. This, in turn, alerts the authorities and he’s assigned a psychiatrist who, using hypnotic suggestion and a machine of his own design, takes control of George’s power himself. Now it is William Haber at the controls, but directing this power consciously and using it to remake the entire world.
. This is a “be careful what you wish for” story. But it’s also about power—not what you can do when you have it, but being seduced by the wielding of power itself, power as the most catastrophic of all addictive drugs. And finally, above all I think, it’s about the contrasts between two opposing ways of looking at life: on the one hand, allowing events to just happen and accepting them; on the other, trying to consciously, deliberately, direct them. East and West maybe (each chapter is prefaced by a Taoist or Buddhist quotation). The first way (to William Haber at least) is unthinkable; the second though (according to Ursula Le Guin at least) is an addictive, self-worsening, disaster. ( )
  justlurking | Jan 27, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (60 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeogeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Körber, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moll, CharlesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sappinen, Jorma-VeikkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary 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.
He never spoke with any bitterness at all, no matter how awful the things he said. Are there really people without resentment, without hate, she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it? 
Of course there are. Countless, the living and the dead. Those who have returned in pure compassion to the wheel, those who follow the way that cannot be followed without knowing they follow it, the sharecropper's wife in Alabama and the lama in Tibet and the entomologist in Peru and the millworker in Odessa and the greengrocer in London and the goatherd in Nigeria and the old, old man sharpening a stick by a dry streambed somewhere in Australia, and all the others. There is not one of us who has not known them. There are enough of them, enough to keep us going. Perhaps.
A person who believes, as she did, that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole: such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play God. Only those who have denied their being yearn to play at it.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

George Orr is a man who discovers he has the peculiar ability to dream things into being -- for better or for worse. In desperation, he consults a psychotherapist who promises to help him -- but who, it soon becomes clear, has his own plans for George and his dreams. The Lathe of Heaven is a dark vision and a warning -- a fable of power uncontrolled and uncontrollable. It is a truly prescient and startling view of humanity, and the consequences of playing God.

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Book description
The plot revolves around a character whose dreams alter reality.
Haiku summary
His dreams are made real
for all time, for all places.
Please don't dream of death.

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