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The Lathe Of Heaven (S.F. MASTERWORKS) [Paperback]

Ursula K. Le Guin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description


George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams dreams which do in fact change reality ¿ and he has no means of controlling this extraordinary power.

Psychiatrist Dr William Haber offers to help. At first sceptical of George¿s powers, he comes to astonished belief. When he allows ambition to get the better of ethics, George finds himself caught up in a situation of alarming peril.

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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 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,452 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

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
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 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and relentlessly brilliant 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious 9 May 1999
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel that Philip K Dick never wrote 30 Dec 2009
By Bill
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream a little dream...it may come true. 12 May 1997
By A Customer
It is a bit more than a quarter of a century since Ursula K. Le Guin's classic novel of the near future was originally penned; a classic science fiction tale that is quite simply, a masterpiece.

Avon Books has re-issued a new trade paperback format of the book, bringing this imaginative fable of power--both uncontrolled and uncontrollable--to a whole new generation of readers. And if you happened to see the WNET movie adaptation done in 1980, please read (or re-read) the book; as with most book to movie translations, the movie was good--but the book is just so much better!

THE LATHE OF HEAVEN is the story of George Orr--a man whose dreams become reality, for better or worse. Against his will, Orr is incarcerated, then sent for psychiatric care to treat his "delusions". After a few experimental sessions, Dr. Haber, Orr's psychiatrist, realizes what is going on and decides to start tinkering with the real world...to make it better--with devastating ramifications.

Like Philip K. Dick at his best, Le Guin truly gets the reader into the inner machinations of the protagonist's head--while taking sly social sideswipes at such matters as geopolitics, race, socialized medicine, and the patient/shrink relationship. And there is a reason that Le Guin has often been referred to as a "writer's writer". Her prose is artfully wrought with vivid imagery in an inimitable style which conveys more in a few sentences than others tell in pages.

It is an allegorical tale in which a "miracle worker" (George Orr) comes under the control of someone wanting to play "master of the universe" (Dr. Haber).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and enjoyable
I just wanted to add my 5-stars for this interesting and enjoyable book. Odd at times yet totally engrossing, I'm so glad I read it!
Published 21 months ago by R. Murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lathe Of Heaven
Le Guin continues her fascination with the principles of Taoism in this enchanting and entertaining book which can perhaps be summed up as the road to Hell being paved with good... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Pensato
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Boggling!
I had forgotten how much fun it is to read a book and come out with wave after wave of analysis until I read the Lathe of Heaven. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2012 by Miss N. Doshi
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read
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... Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2011 by Steve D
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and thought-provoking
This is an absolutely beautiful and moving novel, a genuine literary classic, in which Ursula K LeGuin explores the relationship between personal identity and external structure. Read more
Published on 8 Feb 2011 by David Austin
3.0 out of 5 stars A well written dystopian tale although the idea is rather incredible
This story tells of an individual who is able to alter the world through dreaming. The psychological stress involved leads him to try to prevent this by the use of drugs which... Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2011 by John M
4.0 out of 5 stars Next best thing to PKD's inner space sci fi
This book really made me think of The Cosmic Puppets (Gollancz S.F.) and Time Out Of Joint (S.F. Masterworks) while reading it and I think comparison is apt. Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2010 by Lark
3.0 out of 5 stars Great by someone else, but not I think Le Guin's finest
Another reviewer suggested this one to me from an enthusiastic mention about Le Guin's writing in one of the Vine Fora (thankyou Diziet)

However............... Read more
Published on 16 April 2010 by Lady Fancifull
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Not a bad effort from Le Guin but not her best. This won a hugo or a nebula (I forget) which was probably fair for the time of publication. Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2009 by L. Bentley
5.0 out of 5 stars Prescient
An amazingly prescient novel, given that is was written in 1971. The subject matter is contemporary, the characters are finely drawn and the story is unsettling, but ultimately... Read more
Published on 14 Feb 2009 by Glaucon
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