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The Lathe of Heaven

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  62,029 ratings  ·  4,849 reviews
As featured on Slate, for the first time in eBook edition comes a science fiction classic that is at once eerie and prescient, wildly entertaining and ferociously intelligent.

Winner of the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Locus Award, and one of the most acclaimed writers in science fiction, Ursula Le Guin’s classic novel The Lathe of Heaven imagines a world in which on
Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published April 20th 2014 by Diversion Books (first published May 1971)
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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 reali…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)
James Edwards I presume that this refers to Rudi Gernreich, an influential fashion designer in the middle of the 20th century. In 1970, when LeGuin was writing Lath…moreI presume that this refers to Rudi Gernreich, an influential fashion designer in the middle of the 20th century. In 1970, when LeGuin was writing Lathe in Heaven, Gernreich popularized unisex clothing, and he liked somewhat muted colors like russet. (less)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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Warning: contains major spoiler for A Wizard of Earthsea

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 appreciate
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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 ac
Aug 29, 2014 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,
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully-written Sci-Fi that will touch your heart and soul, and make you think, feel and dream!

"The light shines through it, and the dark enters it."

(Edge of Dreams, Michael Lang)

Set in Portland, Oregon, in the year 2002, The Lathe of Heaven is the story of George Orr. Orr`s dreams can effectively alter reality, and he is looking for a solution/cure for this mysterious problem.

As with any of the Sci-Fi stories, science and technology play a role in The Lathe of Heaven, however, the story is
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean Barrs
The Lathe of Heaven is a very good book with a very important message, though it lacks a certain human element to it which is largely uncharacteristic of Le Guin’s fiction.

Let me explain: this is a book of ideas and idealisms. It is deeply philosophical and intelligent, exploring themes that question the nature of human morality and progress. Its main concern is consequences, the consequences of actions that are driven by a desire change the world into a better place but are unrealistic in thei
Kevin Ansbro
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kevin by: Apatt
"The dream is the aquarium of night"
—Victor Hugo

Oneirophobia: noun. A fear of dreams.

Nonentity pencil pusher, George Orr, increasingly worried that his dreams can alter past and present reality, has therefore become afraid to dream. Caught using another person’s pharm card to obtain drugs to keep him awake, he’s referred to narcissistic psychiatrist, Dr William Haber, for an innovative course of dream therapy.
The book started brightly and the first chapter promised much, a nice run of assona
Susan Budd
Sometime in 1980 I caught a trippy sci-fi movie on television. It blew my mind with its psychedelic special effects and consciousness-altering ideas. But like so many psychedelic and consciousness-altering experiences, some of it impressed itself deeply on my memory while other details were quickly forgotten ~ like a dream upon awakening.

I remembered that a man’s dreams rewrote reality. I remembered that the black woman he loved had turned gray along with the rest of the world. And I remembered
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 26, 2009 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
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
Well.  Dreams have always fascinated me, the random pieces of our lives and subconscious that insinuate themselves into our dreams.  Things we fear, things we wish for, and people who are dead in life but live on in our dreams.  In this novel, we have a mild-mannered, seemingly ineffectual man, but whose dreams mean business.  That is to say, when he dreams, a different reality is spawned and remains after waking.  The space/time/dream continuum has never been trickier.  Sanity is shaken.  Sci-f ...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
Le Guin’s “The Lathe of Heaven” first came to my attention through a low budget PBS film 🎞 of the same title, released on tv in 1980. A science fiction story with aliens, but so hauntingly unique that it literally gave me nightmares. And, that’s appropriate because the tool that Le Guin used to explore her different themes here was dreams, specifically dreams that alter reality.

Because when George Orr dreams, reality is transformed both in the past and the present and its as if the previous rea
Jonathan O'Neill
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
4.5 ⭐

”…. 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 Tzu

I knew coming into this that it was influenced by Ursula’s decades long study of the Tao. The title itself is from an incorrectly translated passage of ‘The Book of Chuang Tzu’ by James Legge. Years after releasing the book, Le Guin received a letter from a scholar by the name of Joseph Needham who “wrote to tell [her] in the kinde
Kimber Silver
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, scifi, classic
It took me a few chapters to warm up, but once the heat kicked in I was hooked!

George Orr has been caught using prescription medications borrowed from others, and he’s in hot water. But George isn’t your run-of-the-mill pill-popper; he has dreams that frighten him and his attempt to escape these nightmarish visions has driven him down a drug-fueled road to ruin.

Assigned to a voluntary therapy program with Dr William Haber, who specializes in sleep disorders, George spills his seemingly-preposte
Emily May
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2015
This is a fantastic science-fiction story about playing God.

On the one hand, and like all good science-fiction, it presents a world of exciting and terrifying possibility: what if you could dream a new world into existence? If all your dreams came true, and you could control those dreams, imagine the power you would have.

The limitless possibility in the novel makes for an exciting and compelling read. Le Guin is clearly an excellent writer, but it is her creative imagination that really opens u
Jen - The Tolkien Gal
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 don't 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's not much I can say since I haven't read this book in over 3 years, but I remember it having such a profound impact on me, that I
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Ariel
Shelves: hugo, 2010, nebula, locus, 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
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
N.N. Light
This was the first book I read by her back in high school and I was blown away by it. Le Guin is one of the best science fiction authors of all time. Gripping plot, engaging characters, this is a must read!

My Rating: 5+ stars
The Lathe of Heaven: An early 1970s classic of reality-altering dreams with Taoist undercurrents
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
I love Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels from the late 1960s and early 70s. She just couldn’t go wrong during this period. Although The Lathe of Heaven may not be the first book that comes to mind as one of her masterpieces (that honor would likely go to The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, or the EARTHSEA TRILOGY), it was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Award
Nov 19, 2012 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
Meredith Holley
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: C.S. Lewis fans
Recommended to Meredith 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
May 07, 2009 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
This book was a bit strange and has given me strange dreams for several nights in a row. It's making me a little paranoid haha! I'm not sure I cared so much for how the story was told, as the conversations between the character of George Orr and Dr. Haber were a mixture of confusing/boring to me. However, I did enjoy how much the book made me think about things - how changing the past for everyone could make things better/worse, how some things on a global scale cannot be overcome (peace, racial ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020

“Speech is silver, silence is gold. Self is universe. Please forgive interruption, crossing in mist.”

First published in 1971, “The Lathe of Heaven” is using a science-fiction framework for a thought-provoking dialogue about the individual’s place in the world, about the clash of two radically different philosophies of life. Contemplative Oriental schools of thought, so popular in the Flower Power period, meet Western positive action and will-to-power. The title itself, despite its orig
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Sep 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, sf
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
Kevin Lopez (on sabbatical)
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven is the closest thing to a “perfect novel” I‘ve read in a long time whose author didn’t have a name like Cervantes, Goethe, Dickens, or Joyce. And as far as sheer reading pleasure and literary appreciation, I wouldn’t hesitate to stand it up against the work of almost any author—full stop.

I’m a bit breathless at the moment (as one tends to get after finishing a truly great book!), but I will put up some of my favorite quotes - if not a full review - soon.
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Ursula K. Le Guin 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. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

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