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The Lathe of Heaven [Paperback]

Ursula K. Le Guin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1976
Many dream of changing the world. But George Orr’s dreams do change it—for better or for worse. Made desperate by this unsought power, George consults a psychotherapist who promises to help him. However, it soon becomes clear that the scientist has his own plans for George and his dreams.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Ursula K. Le Guin is one of science fiction's greatest writers. She is also an acclaimed author of powerful and perceptive nonfiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. She has received many honors, including six Nebula and five Hugo Awards, the National Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Newbery, the Pilgrim, the Tiptree, and citations by the American Library Association. She has written over a dozen highly regarded novels and story collections. Her SF masterworks are The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), The Dispossessed (1974), and The Lathe of Heaven (1971).

George Orr has dreams that come true--dreams that change reality. He dreams that the aunt who is sexually harassing him is killed in a car crash, and wakes to find that she died in a wreck six weeks ago, in another part of the country. But a far darker dream drives George into the care of a psychotherapist--a dream researcher who doesn't share George's ambivalence about altering reality.

The Lathe of Heaven is set in the sort of worlds that one would associate with Philip K. Dick, but Ms. Le Guin's treatment of the material, her plot and characterization and concerns, are more akin to the humanistic, ethically engaged, psychologically nuanced fiction of Theodore Sturgeon. The Lathe of Heaven is an insightful and chilling examination of total power, of war and injustice and other age-old problems, of changing the world, of playing God. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A brilliant novel about the future." -- --Pensacola News

"A rare and powerful synthesis of poetry and science, reason and emotion." -- --The New York Times

"A very good book...A writer's writer, Ursula Le Guin brings reality itself to the proving ground." -- --Theodore Sturgeon

"Gracefully developed...Extremely inventive...What science fiction is supposed to do." -- --Newsweek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number Feb. 5 2003
Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven was first published in 1971, but its message is still relevant today. Le Guin's stable of work has included space opera (the Hainish books), fantasy (the Earthsea stories), as well as science fiction (The Left Hand of Darkness). All of her works possess the familiar sense of didactic about them, however. The Lathe of Heaven falls more in the science fiction realm but is probably more accurately described as psychological fiction.
The story is set in the near future and revolves around one man, George Orr, who's dreams can affect reality. He is greatly troubled by this because he cannot control his dreams, thus he tries to stop himself from dreaming through misuse of prescription drugs. He is sent to counseling with a dream therapist, Dr. William Haber, who quickly learns the truth about George's "effective" dreaming. George just wants to be cured of this ability, but Haber sees its potential and decides to manipulate it to turn their troubled world into a better place. As Haber tries harder and harder to manipulate George's uncooperative dreams he becomes the victim of his own good intentions. This leads him down a dark road where he eventually discovers the truth of "the world after April".
The Lathe of Heaven works on many levels. Simply as a story of a man wrestling with his therapist to find a cure to his ills it is an engaging tale. But it is more interesting as a parable of how one person's attempts to do good can go awry. Dr. Haber sees the power that George Orr possesses and understands the good it can do. The world they live in is plagued by war and overpopulation and he believes that he can use George's power to rid the world of its ills. The problems with this become apparent early on, however.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Guin has it all...again! March 26 2004
I read Lathe of Heaven after my first Le Guin book, Left Hand Of Darkness (phenomonal exam of the value of truth, friendship and a nail biting adventure story at the end!), unsure of what to expect. WHat I found was that again LeGuin couples facinating sci-fi premise a la PK Dick, Heinlein and Card, with engaging, thought provoking social commentary. I confess, I felt the start was a little slow (hense the absent 5th star) and it took some perserverence, but the effort pays off -- in the end I re-read the first hundred pages or so and really dug it (also did this with Left Hand and found it beneficial).
Some of the social issues that interested me the most as incorporated in Lathe:
1. Science for the sake of science -- just cause we can, should we? And the value of scientific gain over an individual's life and freedoms -- is it ever worth it? (this has been done before, granted, but was beautifully executed in the relationship between doctor and patient)
2. Self faith/trust/confidence
3. Outsider/Loner phenomonon...haven't we ALL been THERE before.
I confess, many of these things I got from the mood I was in when reading, my roomate picked up on a few others (the surest sign of a great book -- you could write whole papers..And I did for my Fem. Sci-Fi class)
...and about the end, no spoiler here I promise, the roomie didn't like it ("where the [heck] did that come from")-- I did ("Yup, makes total sense") You be the judge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entry course to Taoism Sept. 13 2002
As a person who learned a little Taoism growing up, I find the book a stunningly authentic and spot-on Taoist-themed story told in the sci-fi format. This story about a passive, ordinary, unheroic, most unlikely hero who is able to dream up reality and an aggressive, progress-minded, megalomanical psychologist who creates disasters for the world by trying to manipulate and control the former's dreams, is more poignant and relevant now than ever. Many accomplishments make this book an exceptional work, including the well-rounded and complex characters, the emotionally rich story, the fluid style, the clever premise. The most astounding success, however, is her precise understanding of the Taoist philosphy and then infusing it in a profoundly human story. After all, Taoism is an observation of the human condition. I have never seen it better illustrated in another story. Le Guin refrained from making the antagoist into a typical bad guy, a mad scientist out to destroy the world. His blindness to his own evil echos Graham Greene's "The Quiet American." The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The novel criticizes not science, but the arrogance of the Western culture, as the hand that leads the world to hell. It must be read as a fable, a reflection of what is really going on in the world, now, every day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern Frankenstein and more Nov. 25 2003
George Orr has a problem, at certain select time, he dreams dreams that change the very nature of reality itself. Placed in the care of psychologist Dr. William Haber, Orr soon finds that Dr. Haber is attempting to use his dreams to "improve" the world, to do the greatest good for the greatest number. But every improvement comes at a cost, and the longer it continues the worse it gets...
I have always heard of this book as a modern classic of Western literature, and now have had a chance to read it. In certain ways this book is an updating of the Frankenstein story, of the scientist meddling in things beyond his imagination, playing God. But, this book is more than that, is different than that, it is an almost religious book of the effects of changing the world and of the effects of accepting the world. This book is too complicated to explain quickly and succinctly, and needs to be read. I highly recommend it.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick Read
Le Guin's, The Lathe of Heaven had lots of sci-fi hype and a provoking idea. What happens if what you dream whether unintentional or suggested become real? Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cindy Beverly
3.0 out of 5 stars Very unusual book
This is quite possibly one of the most unusual books I have ever read. The main character, George Orr, initially seems colourless and limp until the layers begin to be revealed. Read more
Published 1 month ago by BookloverJen
5.0 out of 5 stars Is George Orr Ishi? Is Dr. Haber Alfred Kroeber?
Ishi awakens the last survivor of his race, the Yahi, and begins a journey of change. Along the way, noble minded scientists try to help him but, in the end, use him for their own... Read more
Published on March 21 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars travel with your mind
Great book!! This is the first Ursula K. Le Guin novel I've read, and I think it's fantastic. I'm not much of a sci-fi fan, but Lathe of Heaven avoids the lamer tendencies of the... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars What is reality...?
Is it fixed series of events, a string of cause and effect? Or can it be changed at a whim, changed by nothing but a dream of a sleeping man? George Orr is that man. Read more
Published on July 15 2003 by Michael Valdivielso
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreams and reality in an amazing story.
A haunting mythic story of a man whose dreams can create an alternate reality. He struggles with a over-ambitious medical researcher over control of his brain, to remain in touch... Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002 by John Hovig
5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly, unceasingly brilliant.
"Lathe of Heaven" is the first novel I've read by Le Guin, and I wasn't dissapointed.
In it, the author fashions a quiet but chilling world where nothing truly exists, and we... Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2002 by David Reynolds
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of a letdown...
Now I know why I stopped reading Science Fiction at age 15. I'd always heard & read about how great this book was & having seen both film adaptations, which were criticized as... Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2002 by inframan
1.0 out of 5 stars Boo, boo, and more boos.
It isn't always easy to follow the author's train of thought. Then you have to get past all of her pschoprattle and philosophical nonsense. Taoism my foot. Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2002
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