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
Through his dreams, George Orr can make alternate realities real