Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Lathe of Heaven was published more than forty years ago, but the ideas do not seem dated. That's good for the book, but not so good for the world in general. I found it interesting that the book covers environmental concerns, such as overpopulation and global warming, that are still being debated today.

The basic idea of the plot is simple. When George Orr dreams, he wakes up in a new world where aspects of his dreams have become real. When Dr. Haber discovers Orr's power, he manipulates it to make a better universe. The forced changes all have side effects or come about due to problems that are worse than the original ones. At first glance the theme is that we shouldn't play God. But the world Orr started with was brought back from the edge of destruction by his dreams. Le Guin seems to be saying that our influence on the world is better left to our subconscious minds and to our desire for self preservation than it is to our conscious efforts. I don't agree with that idea, but I do find it interesting.

George Orr's relationship with Heather LeLache is intriguing. She starts the book as a lawyer he contacts to help him break away from the influence of Dr. Haber. She's hard and bitter. As the story continues Heather becomes different and the most important person in Orr's life. In most books I would have attributed the changes to the way their relationship develops. In The Lathe of Heaven she seems to be manipulated by Orr's dreams. That's fascinating and creepy.

The fact that Le Guin could carry off this idea is amazing, yet she does it extremely well. With an idea that forces everything about the book to change at various points along the way, how can their be any consistency? But it works and I found it to be a hard book to put down.

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