The Lathe Of Heaven
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The Lathe Of Heaven

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  19,698 ratings  ·  1,031 reviews
To dream of a different world can be poetic. To dream a different world into being can be terrifying. Just how terrifying is vividly portrayed in this exciting and moving new novel by Ursula K. Le Guin.

George Orr, frightened because he has discovered that he has the power of affective dreaming, consults a psychiatrist, Dr. Haber. Through hypnosis and electronics Haber at...more
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 185 pages
Published 1971 by Charles Scribner's Sons, N.Y.
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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...more
Nov 20, 2012 Nataliya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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?¹

(¹ 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 acti...more
Nov 19, 2010 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Ariel
Shelves: 2010, hugo, locus, nebula, sci-fi
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...more
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
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
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
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...more

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...more
Jan 28, 2012 Sparrow rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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...more
Nate D
Oct 15, 2012 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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-...more
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
Sep 20, 2007 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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...more

“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 work to try to stand outside things and run them, that way. It just doesn't work, it goes against life. There is a way but you hav...more
"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
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)
Dec 10, 2013 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
I loved both the book & the movie. The idea of a man that could change the world was unique the way she presented it. The few characters were perfect to drive her point home. Tremendous power that was so powerless. Unforeseen consequences mixed into a chaotic theory that defied harnessing.

The understated humor that ran through out the book was just perfect! It wasn't a funny book, but had it's moments, enough to lighten the overall depressing world & main character.

It was an eclectic bl...more
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...more
Emir Never
Meet George Orr, a dreamer. Only he's different, his dreams can change reality.

My second Ursula Le Guin read, almost right after A Wizard of Earthsea (five stars), The Lathe of Heaven made me feel like I bit more than I could manage at some point in my reading. I have never encountered a novel quite like this.

The kernel of the story is ambitious: George by dreaming can create and re-create reality with his "effective" dreams. He doesn't want to, that's why he's been taking some drugs to prevent...more
Jul 10, 2014 Fiona rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fiona by: More friends than I can list!
From my persepective, this short yet vast and complex novel by Ursula K. Le Guin is a piece of genius! She blew my mind and led me to tremble with fear and awe every step of the way.

Bearing witness to the experiences, dreams, nightmares and shifted realities of the characters within this vivid piece of science-fiction was extremely unsettling for me - and I love being unsettled by Le Guin! Her characters are written with great skill; their relationship to each other utterly fascinated me. This...more
aPriL purrs 'n hisses
What happens if one sentient consciousness, no matter how well-meaning or ethical, could enforce it's will upon every person on earth? If universal peace and whatever else that creates common good for the entire human race could be forced into reality, would the resulting conformity be the answer for the well-being of mankind? Is human individuality bad? What would humanity look like if we excised all individuality and non-conformity of thought in the name of Good? What ethical system would you...more
I'd like George Orr to dream me up a puppy, but of course it would end up being some horrible zombie puppy that needs to eat my flesh to survive. Damn you and your uncontrollable effective dreams!
Aug 30, 2009 Ken-ichi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: Tomio
This was probably my favorite LeGuin book to date. Languid, thoughtful, well-written. I loved the transitions between realities, which at first were hard to notice when I didn't have a baseline for what constituted reality in this book. Kind of like, "Ok, aliens. Wait, were there aliens before?" which is exactly what the characters experience as well. In one sense this is a classically ironic story a la The Twlight Zone, or The Monkey's Paw: person gains supernatural powers, but attempts to use...more
I finished this book and proceeded to dream about it the same night; how fitting. Not really about the book itself, but borrowing elements from it. And, maybe it wasn't even that I was dreaming about it, but that I kept waking up with the strong impression that I must peel layers off the "onion" and get to the right place by going "deeper"; then I would fall back to sleep. This was happening about every 10 minutes or so for the first three hours that I was in bed (I looked at the clock each time...more
A good fast read. I liked the premise and the beginning/middle but then the ending it gets a little too confusing for my taste. I liked some of the philosophy behind it, though the book is driven more by characters and action (as it should).
The lathe of heaven has a great premise. What if your dreams have the power to change reality?
The protagonist George Orr has the power to change reality by dreaming "effectively". He can not only change the future but he can also change the collective past of the whole universe. He is afraid of his power and he believes that he has no right to change things.
Dr.Haber is an intellectual and a kind of a utilitarian. He learns about George's power wants to use it to make the world a "better" place....more
Nora Dillonovich
This was my first legitimate foray into sci-fi... having tried and tried for years to dedicate myself to finishing one book from this genre, only to fail miserable and be left scratching my head, wondering why?why?why? do people read this, given the array of other vastly more interesting and entertaining things to engage oneself in?

I read this on the plane from east to west. Apocalyptic Portland, identities awry... captivating brain powers, power hungry, narcissistic shrinks. I loved this so mu...more
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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
More about Ursula K. Le Guin...
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1) The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2) The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle, #3) The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4) The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #5)

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