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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 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
on November 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2004
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 genre--very well written, 3-d characters, fascinating story. If you're from Portland, Oregon you'll enjoy the ever-changing Portland setting quite a bit. This book really got inside my head--highly recommended.
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on June 26, 2002
Set in Portland, Oregon in the future--several different futures, actually--this sci fi story pits man's mind against his innate moral sense of responsibility for the rest of Society. Referred for Voluntary Therapy as a result of drug abuse, a mild-mannered patient becomes a pawn in his shrink's chess game of power. Seeking a cure for his too effective dreams--which drastically change reality and distort the time continuum-- George Orr realizes with helpless anguish that Dr. Haber is more interested in exploiting his special mental powers than in curing him. He is literally afraid to sleep, for to sleep means to dream, which could affect millions of lives.
Desperate to control his dreams Orr seeks help from a Black lady lawyer, but is this a simple civil rights case or unauthorized scientific experimentation? What will push a milquetoast man over the edge of his own equilibrium? Is he justified to save his own sanity at any price? What is one man's role in the universe, in relation to mankind at large?
Le Guin's mastery of language, devious plotting and human thought processes combine to create a chilling voyage of conflicting ambitions and manipulation, as the doctor violates his patient's rights--another mad scientist gone amuck. But serious moral issues arise which challenge 21st century readers with haunting reminders of our mistakes in the last century. Who has the right to decide the fate of mankind, to orchestrate earth/alien relations? Will absolute power prove too great a temptation? How can the common man survive the battle of titans for mental control? An excellent, soul-searching read. Remember that "Self is Universe."
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on December 28, 2001
Ursula shows the reader a milieu of parallel worlds. She does this by speeding up her own fast changing world, using a unique switching device, the Dreams of George Orr. The brilliant aspect of this story is that the reader also must live in a spider web world very much like the rapidly switching worlds of George Orr--one made up of man's collective dreams. All aspects of the modern world stem from other minds and dreams: from phones to airplanes, satellites, space craft, space stations, aircraft carriers, submarines, TV, radios, computers, microwaves, the internet and you name it. Yes, our changes appear more slowly but do we have any more choice? What madman's dream gave us 9-11-01? We can lay back on our technological spider web or try asserting free will to leave the web.
The story was a great read but the Aldebaranians were totally superfluous. These unexplained, unmotivated, godlike, alien characters failed to elucidate the mind of George Orr. Perhaps they functioned as a framework when the author reached the end of her imaginative rope. Perhaps some dopey editor told her she needed aliens in the story?
What the plot showed was that you can't have your cake and eat it too--if you want free will you can't have a dreamer as the designer of earthly society. Were one to allow any credibility to George Orr, the dream designer, it would drive a wooden stake through the heart of free will. What did Ursula, the narrator, say about free will? "He (George Orr) was running the same risk the insane mind runs: the loss of the sense of free will." (P.146) Without exerting free will Orr realizes that he had no real job--that his entire dream world was hollow.
Ursula's unraveling of reality in THE LATHE OF HEAVEN paralleled Philip K. Dick's work that inspired this story. I wonder if Dick himself wasn't the model for the protagonist, George Orr?
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on December 24, 2001
This is a wonderful yarn ... The twists and bends of reality manipulated by the misguided psychiatric experimenter Haber revolve around Haber and the central character who may be any one of us - and his 'partner'. Indeed, for a while I thought that Haber may indeed be an allegory of God - and perhaps it is so. Haber does not have real power, but he can influence, cajole, manipulate. And perhaps this is the way of God with us - guiding, influencing, even threatening, but it we who have the power invested in us by our free will to take whatever path we choose.
But the mountains are also powerful characters in this novel - especially Mount Hood. In 1989 I happened to travel passed Mt St Helens well after it had blown its top. But here in this novel there is reference to the perfect cone of the top of St Helens. Without looking at the publishing history, I wondered if this was the clue to relaity in this novel. Perhaps when St Helens' shape was changed we would be back to familiar reality. But of course the book was written before the eruption of St Helens and so my reality was confused with the reality shifts in the novel.
There are two very powerful apocalyptic scenes in this novel, and one shadowy one that is not described but hinted at in a most tantalising way. The blurb on my paperback edition (SF Masterworks 44) says this novel is one to read again and again. I do like rereading novels, but generally I take little notice of blurbs. In this case however, I think it is spot on.
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on May 9, 1999
This delicious little 60,000 word read is definitely hard not to like. I disagree with calling it sci-fi. It is more like a Taoist fantasy of the (then) future (the 1990s), for people who wish they lived in a 'better world', but don't realize that every change has implications. It is for people who hate sci-fi, actually. Ursula Kroeger Le Guin, from a family of anthropologists, brings a refinement to the table that is likely to make you want to read it twice. Not a feminist book, its one lapse is in not imagining a world of sexual equality 'for fun', along with a world where everybody is gray, to end racial inequality, for example. Citizens arrest and summary euthanasia for cancer or defective genes -- that made me laugh. If you're looking for a delicious, nutritious read, buy this jewel.
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on June 28, 2000
Excellent commentary on how idealists obsessively try to influence and shape social policy in order "to make things right," and how their good intentions almost always have disasterous unintended consequences. But do they learn from their mistakes? No, they just keep on trying...
The Lathe of Heaven should be required reading in this time of political correctness, when so many people are obsessed with equality at all costs. This book shows how bleak such a reality would be.
If you enjoy fiction that has strong social commentary (think Lord of the Flies, 1984, Brave New World), then this book is for you.
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on June 1, 1999
I was a little hesitant when I first picked up this book. Seeing that there aren't many other novels on dreams (or none that I've found) "The Lathe Of Heaven" was my only option for an english project. I was quickly drawn into it. The beginning was great - halfway through, although I was still somewhat interested - the plot got slightly dull and confusing. Too much stuff about aliens. However, it still made sense and I wasn't completely lost. Good ending; a very interesting perspective on reality. This was my first LeGuin read, and I'm sure there'll be more in the future.
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on May 19, 1999
I was reminded of "The Lathe of Heaven" when I saw a preview of "Matrix". The idea of an unreal reality is very close to the Hindu and Buddhist concept of the universe as maya, illusion; and perhaps also close to the Aboriginal idea of Dreamtime. I consider this book one of the best sci-fi books of recent times, and the film, although lacking in star value, is among the better sci-fi flicks in years, although not in the same league as "2001", "Blade Runner" or "Brazil"
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