2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number
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...
Published on Feb. 5 2003 by Paul S. White
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 being travesties of the source, I finally bought & read it. It's a good story, though to my taste it's a bit heavy on the political ironies of the period (e.g. how the sexual permissivenss of the...
Published on Oct. 31 2002 by inframan
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number,
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. When Haber has George dream of a less crowded world, he conjures up a plague that wipes out billions. Thus the problem of overpopulation is solved, but with terrible consequences. It is important to understand that Haber has only the best of intentions: "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number" is his motto. The stumbling block comes in his inability to control George's subconscious mind. Every time he tries to do good in one place, he inadvertently conjures evil in another. And this is the strength of the story. It is not about an evil character causing evil in the world, but a good person bringing evil through his inability to control the power he possesses. This should be required reading for all politicians.
At only 175 pages, this is a quick read. Le Guin's writing is accessible and fast paced. There are only three main characters in the story, George Orr, Dr. Haber, and the social worker Heather Lelache, so she does a good job of developing each of them fully. This book is considered a science fiction classic, rightfully so, but also has broader appeal because of its social and political implications. I give The Lathe of Heaven the highest of recommendations.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars travel with your mind,
By A Customer
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entry course to Taoism,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Guin has it all...again!,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Is George Orr Ishi? Is Dr. Haber Alfred Kroeber?,
By A Customer
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 ends. One of those scientists was Alfred Kroeber, renowned anthropologist and father of Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. The destruction of one reality and the birth of a new one on a personal scale may be associated with a new type of human yet to be discovered by anthropologists - Alienated Man. George Orr's affliction and Ishi's journey represent societal disaffection of Western man. The mass of men lead lives of quiet and estranged desperation...and dream.
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern Frankenstein and more,
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.
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. For some of his dreams change the real world, because his dreams sometimes come true. But Mr. Orr does NOT want to change the world, he just wants to be a normal man with normal dreams.
When George tries to take drugs to end his dreaming he is sent to Dr. Haber to be cured of his fears. But what happens when Dr. Haber also realizes Orr's gift/curse is not the product of an insane mind, but in fact is real and decides to use it for the 'good' of mankind?
If you liked the book there are two movies available to watch. I prefer the older version made by WNET/THIRTEEN (PBS).
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 are nothing but dreams on lid of a sleeper's eye.
The story follows George Orr, a man who is convinced his dreams can-and do-change reality. Orr begins to steal dream surpressing drugs, and is promplty caught and arrested. He is sentenced to volentary mental therapy. If he refuses, he will be prosocuted and probably put in jail. When he tells his therapist about his "effective" dreams, his therapist decides to hypnotize him and MAKE him dream. It all goes downhill from there.
The problem with Orr's dreams, is that when they change reality, nobody else remembers it, because to them, thats the way reality has always been. the only reason his therapist knows about it is because he was at the center when it happened.
In this way, Orr and his therapist begin and maintain a hostile symbiotic relationship, if that can be imagined. Orr needs therapist for dream surpressing drugs, and the therapist needs Orr to complete his research on effective dreaming, so that he can start to map the same brain patterns that cause these dreams onto someone else...
All in all, it is a wonderful character study of the dangers of absolute control and playing God.
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 being travesties of the source, I finally bought & read it. It's a good story, though to my taste it's a bit heavy on the political ironies of the period (e.g. how the sexual permissivenss of the 1960s & 1970s create a backlash in the protagonist, or how both major male characters wear "traditional" shoulder length hair & beards). Some of the "technical" theories of Dr. Haber just go on & on & are definitely drowse-inducing, but that's typical of the genre. The idea is a great one, no question of that, in a best of Twilight Zone way. My greater gripe is with the edition of this book I bought from Amazon. There's a typo on every page, often a misspelling or dropped letter, but just as often a chopped or garbled sentence. Soon the narrative voice in my head sounded like Peter Sellers doing one of his more exotic impersonations. So much for off-shore book publishing!
4.0 out of 5 stars "You can't run away from your own Dreams.",
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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The Lathe Of Heaven: A Novel by Ursula K. Le Guin (Paperback - April 15 2008)
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