The Lathe of Heaven
By Ursula K. Le Guin

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Rating: Terrific!
3 Stars

First Published: 1971
Pages: 184

Review © 2011 by Stephen Roof
Genre:  Science Fiction, Alternate Worlds, Fantasy



The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin is a modern classic of science fiction that manages to be as relevant today as it was when first published 40 years ago.  It takes a unique look at some possible alternate futures which serve to illustrate how the future could be impacted by population growth, environmental issues, natural disasters, and major social changes.

In The Lathe of Heaven we meet a man, George Orr, who has discovered that he has a unique ability (or curse).  His dreams can change reality.  The only problem is that his dreams are the product of his subconscious so he doesn’t really have control over the changes he can make to the world he lives in.  Desperate for help, he’s sent to a psychiatrist who promises that he can help George dream safely but quickly recognizes that the potential uses of his patient’s powers are limitless.  Dr. Haber believes he can use hypnosis and the power of suggestion to carefully guide George’s dreams.  However, as you would expect, even the simplest planned changes may lead to quite unexpected consequences.

With this novel, you don’t have to worry about the author rambling off on tangents.  The writing is very economical and always on point.  There are intriguing explorations of human psychology and motivations along with interesting looks at the kinds of world changes that can cause significant changes to societies.  In addition to all this, there is also a unique fractured love story with characters that are well developed and likable.

The Lathe of Heaven is a shorter novel that reads quickly but makes you really think about the different directions our world may be heading and about the nature of reality itself.  The pace is high, the characters are realistic, and the drastic changes to reality are fascinating.  The Lathe of Heaven is highly recommended for all ages.  Don’t miss it.