Review- Le Guin, “The Lathe of Heaven”

Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Lathe of Heaven” (1971) – George Orr dreams effectively- that is to say, some of his dreams come true, shifting reality behind them. That’s the premise of this Hugo Award winner from scifi legend Ursula K. Le Guin. Orr doesn’t want to do this anymore, and his attempts to self-medicate his dreams away lead to him being put in the care of psychiatrist Dr. Haber, who sees the potentialities of Orr’s ability when combined with Haber’s hypnosis chops. Haber soon has Orr dreaming up all kinds of things to improve their lot and that of humanity, generally leading to unintended consequences. Dreaming away overpopulation (this is the seventies, when people were worried about that) leads to a great plague obliterating much of humanity. Dreaming away war between nations leads to war between planets, and dreaming away racism leads to everyone being the same gray color (something tells me people would still develop something like racism, but hey, it’s a scifi novel). Orr, something of a natural Taoist, wants to stop getting in the way of the Way of things; Haber, almost a parody of the sort of scifi ubermensch Le Guin and the rest of the New Wave in scifi were trying to get away from (and their authors), insists on their (mostly his) ability to change the world for the better. Eventually, Haber’s faustian power grab does himself in and nearly destroys consensual reality while they’re at it. Short, effective, and moving, this one earns its place in the canon of speculative fiction. *****

Review- Le Guin, “The Lathe of Heaven”

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