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118 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how'd i miss that ?, November 25, 2000
This review is from: Lathe of Heaven (Paperback)
In the year 2002, Earth is plagued by war, famine, pollution, overpopulation, etc. George Orr is afraid to go to sleep, because when he wakes, whatever he dreamt the night before has become reality. He is put in a Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment program when he is caught using drugs to avoid sleep. There he meets Dr. Haber, who sees in George a solution to the world's problems and so he starts manipulating George's dreams to create a "better" reality. Haber's delusion's of godhood inevitably lead to unintended consequences & it's up to George, the freak of nature, to stop him.
Ursula K. LeGuin is one of the towering figures in Science Fiction, indeed in all of literature, and this is her finest novel; a brilliant cautionary tale to rival Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
POSTSCRIPT: I don't know how I missed this angle, unless I'm losing something off of what little fastball I once had, but I just watched the long lost PBS version of this story and the most important aspect of this story became abundantly clear. After they showed the movie, Bill Moyers interviewed the author and it occurred to me that this may well be one of the most conservative novels ever written.
Though she spoke of the story in Taoist terms--George Orr gets along by going along--it is also easy to read the plot in political terms. Dr. Haber can be seen as any intellectual who conceives a better way for society and then seeks to impose it, completely failing to understand the unintended consequences which this action will inevitably have. George Orr, meanwhile, understands that the power to shape reality is too dangerous to entrust to any one man or group of men. It is better to let the future evolve naturally and preserve Man's free will, even if this means not stepping in to "fix" some situations that seem amenable to his personal solutions. This is sort of the novelization of Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom and it is very, very good.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 5, 2009 2:13:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 5, 2009 2:15:48 PM PST
panopticon7 says:
the novel is a tabula rasa. an ink blot test. it's ambiguous and open. how you interpret it says something about you, not about the work. this is no more an embodiment of an austrian sociopath's dystopian rant than it is an endorsement to let it be from a couple of brilliant british songwriters. what happens, happens. the author herself confesses this tale defies allowing even her to have a final interpretation. it's worth noting that while jellyfish have retained their essential structure lo these many eons, this only means they have evolutionarily adjusted to their not especially challenging niche in the environment; you don't have to long consider what became of the more vigorously stimulated descendants of the jellyfish--they became us. everything evolves naturally. whether or not anyone believes choice is involved.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2009 1:19:00 PM PST
Well put. It's also worth pointing out that Orr does use his power (before the chronological beginning of the book) to dramatically remake reality in a way that we can probably all accept. That fact dramatically undercuts any easy critique of Haber's actions.

Posted on Oct 22, 2011 11:54:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 23, 2011 2:38:53 AM PDT
Your point is excellent. But conservatives are every bit as much social engineers as progressives are, except in different ways. For one thing, as time moves on even conservatives change their opinions about what is "traditional." Young conservatives in America today, for example, are virtual libertines compared to the views held by Victorian era conservatives in regard to sex. And conservatives embrace technology on a scale that even some contemporary progressives sometimes don't.

Nuclear proliferation, for example, is something more conservatives agree with than progressives. Yet that technology has greater power to go awry than almost any technology imaginable. I think a more accurate point is that *innovation* is a double-edged sword. *Change* is a double-edged sword. Yet conservatives are often strongly in favor of innovation and change. They may frame those changes as a return to the past, but it isn't necessarily true. Conservative particularly like innovation in war technology. And arms races are hardly a return to the past. That's not to say that such innovation is not important. In these days and times it's become vital. But *all* technological innovations leads to unexpected consequences. And even if our technology doesn't change, our environment will. Change ultimately leads to things that are hard or impossible to predict.

Look at Neanderthals. Surely they were the original conservatives. And I don't men this in a pejorative way. I'm not comparing contemporary conservatives to Neanderthals. What I mean is that Neanderthals got left behind on the "change bandwagon." If resistance to change is conservative, even *resistance to change* has unforeseen consequences. Resistance to change may not (in the long run) be any safer than acceptance of change or initiating change.

Both conservatives and progressives have been responsible for ushering in new times and the unexpected consequences that result from them.

In fact, one of the teachings of Taoism is that he who is not flexible will be broken. This also applies to *change*. If *innovations* lead to negative consequences, so can *resistance* to change. Like everything else, a Taoist must also find a balance between resisting change and adapting to it. His challenge is to discourage foolhardy change but encourage wise change. But even for the Taoist master this isn't always an easy judgement to make.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2013 3:33:13 PM PDT
Desjay says:
Neanderthal's didn't get "Left Behind" they got "Assimilated" through interbreeding, Scientists in 2010 disocvered this while mapping the Neanderthal Genome.
They found that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens could interbreed.
Neanderthals DNA makes up 1% to 4% of our modern DNA.

Posted on May 27, 2013 8:18:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 12, 2013 10:23:51 PM PDT
David Tsal says:
Actually, it's even more concervative than that. Dr. Haber at first seems to be getting rid of the common problems of our society (pollution, overpopulation, racism, etc.), but as the narrative continues one realizes that there is no stopping him. Ever! Like Faust, he is never satisfied, he never stops, and the result is endless ever increasing, ever speading up transformation. What has been created an hour ago is old and in need of replacement. Then within a minute, then within a second.

This is such a precise depiction of the core anti-conservative (liberal? leftist? progressive?) attitude at its very core -- the eternal damnation of what exists here and now and eternal change for the sake of change -- it took my breath away.

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 5:15:32 PM PST
Daniel Ciora says:
Now I'm even more interested in reading this book thanks to the conversation that you started.

I saw the PBS version when I was in high school and loved it.

I saw the A & E version and was disappointed.

I bought the DVD of the PBS version as soon as it was available.

So it is time to actually read the damn book.

Thank you.
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