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The Lathe Of Heaven (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 Aug 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (9 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857989511
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857989519
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ursula Le Guin has won many awards, including a National Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Newbery Honor and the World Fantasy Award For Life Achievement.

Product Description

Amazon Review

First published in 1971, Ursula Le Guin's SF novel The Lathe of Heaven combines a sheaf of future possibilities--including an early evocation of global warming--with a parable about wishes that has the terrible clarity of a fairytale.

The uncomfortably gifted George Orr is desperately drugging himself to avoid sleep, because he knows his dreams can change the world. Psychiatrist Dr Haber begins with good intentions of curing Orr, but when he finds he can shape Orr's "effective dreams" and force his own wishes into reality, the lure of power is too much. Though Haber believes he wants only to do good, he's also quick to upgrade himself from obscurity in a windowless office to Director of the prestigious Oregon Oneirological Institute.

During his flawed attempts to create an earthly paradise, we see that each sweeping change makes matters worse. Let's fix over-population: suddenly there's a new past in which humanity was almost destroyed by plague, billions of people are written out of existence, and Haber drinks a toast--"to a better world". Let's fix war: the hapless Orr's dreaming mind can only imagine and create a new threat that unites Earth against outside foes. Let's fix racism: the result is even more painful. As Orr broods:

The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.

In this mad round of poisoned wishes, it becomes necessary to stop. But power-crazed Haber refuses to stop....

Beautifully written, jolting in its moral force, The Lathe of Heaven is one of Le Guin's finest SF excursions. --David Langford

Book Description

Through his dreams, George Orr can make alternate realities real

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By lee@artelos.com on 30 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is just amazing. It illustrates abstract concepts vividly, and paints wildly changing pictures of a world with remarkable ease and fluidity. The Lathe of Heaven deals with eastern philosophical concepts of acceptance and self-knowledge. In fact, the title is taken from the Tao Te Ching, and short excerpts from this ancient and provoking work serve to introduce us to the concepts of each chapter. The Lathe of Heaven takes you on a journey with George Orr as he struggles to come to terms with his potential.
Initially, George is simply getting by in the world, struggling to live day by day, despite tremendously powerful dreams which occassionally cause his world to change in uncontrollable ways. Afraid he may cause more harm with these dreams, he seeks out the help of a psychiatrist. Dr. Haber has other ideas, however -- meaning well, although misguided, he attempts to control this power in order to shape reality to his own liking. Things progressively begin to worsen, until the world begins to collapse around them. All the while, George remains the same -- he, who appears weak and controllable at the outset through his accepting personality, is the only one who can cope as reality begins to crumble. What seemed to others a weakness is precisely what gives him strength.
All in all, a beautiful work of science fiction.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Martin Turner HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 May 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating and relentlessly brilliant SF novel which is completely different from Ursula K. LeGuin's other works. Set in the near future on earth, it's the story of a man whose dreams change reality.
The 'if' world scenarios are a favourite of Science Fiction writiers. Some other classics are Philip K. Dick's 'The Man in the High Castle' and 'the Zap Gun', the Asimov and Arthur C Clarke short stories of people going back to the past and changing the future, and more recently Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. In film there's 'Twelve Monkeys' and for TV there's the much underrated early Dr Who classic 'Inferno'.
The Lathe of Heaven, however, is a completely different take and a very original and compelling solution. In this story, the man's dreams are bizarrely transmitted into new realities. This is just a disturbing personal experience, until he falls into the hands of an unscrupulous psychotherapist.
The ensuing catalogue of disastrous choices — similar to genie-wish stories — opens the door for LeGuin to explore philosophical themes with much greater depth and precision than her Ekumen scenarios do. For example, a dream aspiring to end race hatred results in everyone having the same grey skin colour.
I enjoyed this book immensely. Even if you aren't a fan of LeGuin, the Lathe of Heaven should be a cracking good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 May 1999
Format: Paperback
This delicious little 60,000 word read is definitely hard not to like. I disagree with calling it sci-fi. It is more like a Taoist fantasy of the (then) future (the 1990s), for people who wish they lived in a 'better world', but don't realize that every change has implications. It is for people who hate sci-fi, actually. Ursula Kroeger Le Guin, from a family of anthropologists, brings a refinement to the table that is likely to make you want to read it twice. Not a feminist book, its one lapse is in not imagining a world of sexual equality 'for fun', along with a world where everybody is gray, to end racial inequality, for example. Citizens arrest and summary euthanasia for cancer or defective genes -- that made me laugh. If you're looking for a delicious, nutritious read, buy this jewel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill on 30 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dick himself had nothing but praise for Le Guin's tribute to his best work of the 60s, in which she takes familiar Dick elements - alternative worlds, drug-induced paranoia, cryptic aliens and a humble working man as the central protagonist -and adds her own poetic flair, in the process giving us some surprisingly sympathetic characters and ominously believable utopian/dystopian visions of the future. It's also very funny.

First published in 1971, it hasn't aged one jot, its vision of global warming more relevant now than ever: '... it was the endless warm drizzle of spring - the ice of Antarctica, falling softly on the heads of the children of those responsible for melting it'.

A brilliant, unqualified SF masterpiece.
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By Steve D on 3 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a story about a man - George Orr - whose dreams can change reality, and the psychiatrist who sets out to cure him but, having realised he can control George's dreams through hypnosis, then decides to change the world using his ideas of how things should be. It's a great idea - although George's ability is never really explained, as a starting point it's brilliant. At the start, George is a mess. Le Guin's idea of a future world (the book was written in 1971) that is overpopulated, over-industrialised and polluted is all too real. George has realised that his nightmares are making the world worse, and has been taking drugs to try and prevent sleep. When it's discovered that he has been obtaining the medication illegally he is forced to see a psychiatrist. In steps Dr Haber, who quickly becomes obsessed with the possibilities and the power George's ability provides him with. As the story progresses, Haber uses George to change the world. At first the changes are small, and only noticeable to the two of them. But, as Haber's lust for power begins to take over ... well, that would be spoiling it.

I really liked the way Le Guin wove the changes into the narrative in such a natural way. From the start, she throws in little details about the existing world then - without whacking you around the head with a big sign saying "THIS HAS CHANGED!" - you find you're reading about the same people and places, but they are different. I also liked that, once George's dreams altered things, they also changed history, so people around him remembered events going back years that had formed the new world as they saw it now.

A very interesting and enjoyable read, and it doesn't overstay its welcome.
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