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The Lathe of Heaven

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  28,901 Ratings  ·  1,670 Reviews
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 i
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 19th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published 1971)
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Beverly Howard Perhaps because it has been filmed twice. The first time, it was a special on PBS IIRC, back in the 1970s or so. I liked the screenplay better for the…morePerhaps because it has been filmed twice. The first time, it was a special on PBS IIRC, back in the 1970s or so. I liked the screenplay better for the first one than the second one. I did like the casting on the second one.(less)
Meika I took a peek at some of the books listed on your profile, and I think you might like it. The main plot-driver is dreams, which lets you suspend…moreI took a peek at some of the books listed on your profile, and I think you might like it. The main plot-driver is dreams, which lets you suspend reality in a way that's compatible with a rational world-view. It's also very psychological, obviously, since one of the main characters is a psychiatrist who studies dreams.
There's no magic in this story. The science isn't foolproof, but it bends along the existing unknowns. If that's too much, you can easily take the story as an elaborate zen koen (there is one about a farmer who finds a horse, and his neighbors say he's lucky, and he says "maybe," and then his son tries to ride the horse and is thrown and injured, and the neighbors say he's unlucky, and he says "maybe," then the army comes to town.... and so on.). (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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When I first came across this book as a teenager, I think I only really noticed the surface story. George Orr is a man whose dreams, literally, come true; he dreams something, and when he wakes up the world has changed. There's an unscrupulous psychiatrist who wants to exploit George's gift, a love story, some interesting aliens, and a good ending. I really liked it.

I've read it three or four times since then, and each time I've appreciated it more. One could imagine a book with a similar plot
Nov 20, 2012 Nataliya rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of good sci-fi and philosophy
Recommended to Nataliya by: Catie
The Lathe of Heaven asks the reader - is it ever okay to play God?

( Of course, when it comes to Morgan Freeman there is NO question.)
You have to help another person. But it's not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you're doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you're right and your motives are good isn't enough.
Who would you normally root for? A guy with the power to change the ugly dystopian world² but is unwilling to do so? Or a guy who activ
Dec 19, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been struggling over this review for several weeks. Writing about a classic science fiction novel is daunting, especially one as beloved as The Lathe of Heaven.

The story is set set in Portland, Oregon, and George Orr is sent to psychiatrist Dr. Haber for his abuse of drugs. Orr had been taking drugs to try and prevent himself from dreaming, because his dreams have the power to alter reality. When he wakes, George remembers both worlds — the pre-dream version and the post-dream. He reluctant
Dec 03, 2015 Lyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub,For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause.”

Ursula K. LeGuin delivers a riveting but simple tale of a man whose dreams can affect and alter reality. Told with an Arthur C. Clarke like elegance and minimalism, but with her signature mastery of the language, LeGuin goes beyond an interesting concept and explores the ins, and outs, and what-have-yous of someone with God-like, but
Feb 24, 2014 Carol. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of classic sci-fi
For those new to or unaware of the wonders of Le Guin, this is a short book about George Orr, a man who has been taking too many drugs in an attempt to stop dreaming. Some of his dreams become true–not in the prescient sense, but in the reality-is-reordered sense, and George is haunted by the changes. In his highly regulated society, his drug deviance results in a mandatory visit to a psychologist and his dreaming machine. Dr. Huber discovers George’s power is real and convinces him that intenti ...more
Nov 19, 2010 Tatiana rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: Ariel
Shelves: sci-fi, 2010, nebula, locus, hugo
Would you like to play God?

Would you like to shape the world to your liking? Maybe to rid it of war, overpopulation, hunger, racial prejudice, decease? To make it into your own idea of Heaven?

Well, the two main characters of The Lathe of Heaven have different opinions on this subject. George Orr, who possesses a unique ability to change the world by dreaming about, seemingly, the most mundane things, wants this power to be gone, he is sure the events should take their natural course, no matter h
May 23, 2011 Miriam rated it liked it

That's what I was asking Le Guin (or, rather, myself) as I read the first half of this book. You have this guy, George, who is ordinary -- literally median, in fact -- except that when he dreams, reality changes to match his dreams. It does this by changing the past so that whatever new thing he dreams of has always been that way so as far as everyone else is concerned nothing has happened. I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction and am willing to make some pretty damn suspensions t
Aug 02, 2009 tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always assumed chronic readers share the experience of finding connecting patterns from one book to the next. No matter how seemingly disparate books read consecutively may be, I've always come across overlapping concepts or some sort of shared meaning that is more difficult to pin down and describe. Whatever these synchronicities may be, I am always genuinely amazed and interpret them as signs that I'm witnessing something important--or at the very least, that I am reading the right book a ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Yakup rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Tanrı'ya açılan kapı var olmayıştır.
*Ölümün dışında hiçbir şey insanı rüya görmekten alıkoyamaz.
*Bilinçaltından korkma sakın! Kabuslarla kaynaşan karanlık bir lağım çukuru değil o.
*Güç istencinin özü tam da budur zaten, büyümedir. Başarı onun iptalidir. Güç istenci varlığını sürdürebilmek için her ergiyle daha da artmalı, o ergi daha yüksekteki bir sonraki hedefe uzanan bir basamaktan ibaret kılmalıdır. Elde edilen güç ne kadar büyük olursa, daha fazla güce sahip olma iştahı da o denli artar.
Jul 31, 2015 Apatt rated it it was amazing
This is by far my favourite Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel (well, neck and neck with her novella The Word for World is Forest). Her most popular science fiction books (thus excluding the classic Earthsea fantasy series) tend to be The Left hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed, both of these are excellent books but The Lathe of Heaven is the most mind blowing. It is as if she was channeling Philip K. Dick, and according to Wikipedia it is actually her tribute to the late great author.

The Lathe of Heav
Jan 28, 2012 Sparrow rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: C.S. Lewis fans
Recommended to Sparrow by: Ceridwen
I have long been a fan of dreams: talking about dreams, working out the interweavings between dreaming life and reality. I almost scare-quoted reality there, but then I realized that this review is probably going to be douchey enough as it is without adding a scare-quoted reality to it. Anyway, Ursula LeGuin’s worlds are typically not my worlds; when I’m reading her books, I tend to bump into walls and trip over furniture, where other readers intuitively know the lay of the interior decorating. ...more
Nov 20, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coincidentally I had just previously read (part of) Ubik by Philip K. Dick which is also a novel about a person 'gifted' with the power to change the past retroactively, so my opinion of The Lathe of Heaven was probably (unfairly) affected by this glut—do two books qualify as a glut?—of past-altering fiction in my reading schedule. I want to alter the past and start with a different Ursula K. Le Guin novel instead.

As a disclaimer of sorts, I have to admit that these kind of wackadoo premises ar
Jul 03, 2011 Catie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Catie by: Tatiana
I think that the contents of these deceptively meager one hundred and seventy five pages could keep my neurons firing for months. This is a tiny little volume, which I thought I would have read within a few hours. But I drastically underestimated the amount of time that I would need to sit and process certain pages, or to have inner debates about certain scenes, and I really didn’t anticipate the sheer number of dog-eared pages I would end up with at the close of this volume. This book is a mind ...more
Dec 11, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven


“Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven." —Chuang Tse: XXIII

“We're in the world, not against it. It doesn't wo
Mar 02, 2011 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, favorites
I always say my favourite film is Raiders of the Lost Ark and my favourite book is the original Earthsea trilogy, or if pushed A Wizard of Earthsea. Picking one favourite is always a bit arbitrary but both of these are childhood favourites that have survived repeat viewings/readings and have developed accretions of personal associations that add to their significance to me. I think I can now go a step further and say that LeGuin is becoming my favourite author because she just has so many comple ...more
Nate D
Oct 15, 2012 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: solipsistic and uncertain conciousnesses
Recommended to Nate D by: mandated psychotherapy
Thoughtful and terrifying and compulsively entertaining. This is what the science fiction genre was made for.

Taking one of the most drastic hypotheticals, the most direly destabilizing of test cases, LeGuin sets about addressing the ambiguous and subjective nature of reality (in many ways, she out-PKDs her contemporary Phillip K. Dick, here) in direct but subtly calibrated ways, spinning off deep and troubling tangents worthy of their own stories as barest afterthought. Then she uses her sanely-
Sep 20, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: science fiction fans, philosophers, psychologists, international volunteers
Shelves: fiction, sff
The Lathe Of Heaven is a taoist parable masquerading as a novella. Through the metaphor of George Orr, a man whose dreams become reality, it examines the consequences of interference and the hubris of believing that we can "improve" the world.

I read this book during a flight to Central America, where I was going to spend the summer before my second year of medical school doing HIV/AIDS education. The contrast could not have been more striking: the purpose of my summer and my career was to interf
My edition is by Blackstone, but was downloaded from the local library. The reader was excellent, but I really would have liked it if they could have put the actual Beatles' tune in.

This review contains overall spoilers, I've only hidden specific ones. It's a 40+ year old book & has had 2 movies based on it, so unless you've been living under a rock [as far as the SF genre goes], you'll probably know most of it.

This is a tough review to write because there are just so many threads running th
Jun 29, 2014 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I don't know. Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I know know if our life has a purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass."

There was a slight pause, and when Haber answered his tone was no longer genial, reassuring or encouraging. It was quite
Jul 16, 2007 Tatiana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sciencefiction
This book is one of my all time favorites. First of all, UKL is an amazing writer. The book plays with the nature of reality and idea of creative dreaming. I believe UKL studied Australian aboriginal cultures' understanding of the dreamtime and how it interacts with the worldtime, and that study informs this book, as well as her book "The Word for World is Forest". The book is wildly creative and touches on elements of the human psyche that are far beneath the surface. The ideas she explores jus ...more
Jan 28, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it
I loved this book, but I often feel something important is missed if one focuses too much on the 'effective dreaming' power that George Orr seems to have. 'Seems' is the key.
The story begins with a brief description of George:
"His eyelids had been burned away"
"He could not turn his head, for blocks of fallen concrete pinned him down"
"he felt deathly sick, and knew it was the radiation sickness." (a nuclear war is in progress)
"the wall turned into the floor." (he is waking up)
And thus the stra
Nov 02, 2015 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, to-read-again
I would have sworn I'd read this book ages ago. I can almost picture myself taking an old worn copy of this book out of my college library shortly after finishing my Sci-Fi class with Dr. Richard Collier (may his old stardust reside with the universe forever). I can see myself sitting up on the balcony over the food court digging LeGuin's prose and thoroughly falling in love with the story of George Orr and his dreams.

But I discovered, much to my surprise, that none of that happened. I hadn't re
Mar 27, 2016 Laura rated it liked it
Books like this make me truly appreciate Goodreads. This was so dense with complex concepts and symbolism that it confused me, but reading others' reviews on here (and discussing with reading buddies) has helped me to make sense of it.

George Orr’s dreams can shape reality. George is quite a passive person. He doesn’t have any great plans or ideas, he isn’t driven to make his mark on the world, he’s just happy to let things be. So when he realises he’s capable of shaping the universe while he’s a
Quite an interesting book, and a thought-provoking one. If it's within your power to change the world, do you have an obligation to do so? What if you have no control over the changes you make? George Orr can dream "effectively", with his dreams retroactively changing reality entirely. He's terrified of his dreams, as well he might be. His psychologist, Haber, on the other hand, sees the potential to sculpt reality to his liking.

Much of the book is about the unintended consequences of meddling
Apr 29, 2015 Abdulrahman rated it it was amazing
I don't think Ursula K. Le Guin is capable of writing a mediocre book, let alone a bad book.

The Lathe of Heaven is a thought-provoking, profound, beautifully written masterpiece.

It's the story of a man, George Orr, who can change reality through his dreams. He, however, has no control over those dreams, and is actually afraid of them, and of changing reality, for he feels that no one has the right to meddle with life, or alter reality.

“The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an e
4.5 stars. An excellent, often overlooked book by Le Guin, that is worht yof being mentioned in the same breath as her otehr two classics: The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1972)
Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1972)
Winner: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1972)
Murat G.
Oct 31, 2015 Murat G. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ekitap-pdf
Kitabın orjinal adı " Lathe of Heaven", yani Cennetin Tornası.

(Teknik konu alert!!)

Torna işlemi basitçe metal ve tahta malzemelerin işlenmesinde kullanılan bi yöntem. İşlenecek, şekil verilecek parça döndürülürken, kesici bir uçla talaş kaldırmak suretiyle malzemeye şekil veriliyor. Alegorik olarak döndürülen malzeme George'un rüyası, şekil veren Haber oluyor. Kendine göre bir cennet şekillendiriyor kafasına göre kararlar vererek Haber efendi. Bu noktada;

Jan 14, 2015 sologdin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: speculative
Nutshell: oneironomist enacts well-intentioned revisions of spacetime continuum, up to and including genocide and war.

Title refers to a chapter epigram, taken from a Taoist gnomic: “To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven” (30), which is not a praxis that I would endorse.

Setting is an Ugly Future, wherein “undernourishment, overcrowding, and pervading foulness of the environment were the norm. Th
Dec 10, 2013 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of sci-fi classics
Recommended to Eric by: Nikki Romano
This book is a lot of things -- an amalgam of various dystopian ideas, an stream-of-consciousness inspection of the butterfly effect, an analysis on the effects of power on the human psyche, a foray into the multiverse strangely reminiscent of Inception, a love story, an ode to George Orwell (the main character is named George Orr in homage to the author) -- but one thing it isn't is boring.

I have to point that out specifically because I did not want to read this, and if it weren't for my book
Jul 23, 2014 Gavin rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This was an entertaining and thought provoking sci-fi tale that caught my attention from the start and held it until the end. It was not fast paced or action packed, but it was compelling.

Mild mannered George Orr's dreams have the power to change reality. Unfortunately his dreams are not all that easy to control and while some of the changes are positive others have terrifying consequences. It made for interesting reading.

George was a passive, but likable character. The helpful Doctor Haber wa
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
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“Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” 5015 likes
“The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.” 49 likes
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