The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin is science fiction, but it’s a science fiction of ideas, of what if’s, not of technology and alien planets. There are aliens and technology in the novel, but they are beside the point really. This is a fable, like so many episodes of The Twilight Zone, a story about the improbable designed to tell us something about the every day.
In The Lathe of Heaven, George Orr has dreams that come true. His dreams come true, and he is the only one who notices the changes they make in the world around him. To stop his dreams he has been taking overdoses of various drugs which is a crime punishable by forced visits to a psychiatrist in Le Guin’s anti-utopian future. The bulk of the novel is made up of Orr’s sessions with Dr. Haber.
Dr. Haber does not try to cure Orr. Instead he tries to use his power to improve the world, to clean up pollution, reverse global warming, stop war. These all sound like good ideas, but it never works out that way in fiction, not for long. Soon Dr. Haber is creating a stifling, controlled society, where the individual is sacrificed for the greater good. George Orr tries to rebel but how can he when Dr. Haber has gained control of his dreams.
I found The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin to be entertaining and surprisingly pertinent to today’s world. Considering the book was written in 1971 this is not exactly good news, but it is a very good book. Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction there is much to enjoy in The Lathe of Heaven. I’m giving it five out of five stars.
In the years since I first ran this review on my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. this review has had only four hits. That’s a sobering fact for me as a blogger and for a fan of Ursula K. LeGuin. The posts right before it and right after it got hundreds of hits over the years, some posts on Ready When You Are, C.B. passed the 20,000 hits marks, but one of Ursula LeGuin’s best gets only four.
The Lathe of Heaven deserves better. It’s a very good book. More people should read it, even if they don’t read this post.