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The Lathe Of Heaven: A Novel Paperback – April 15, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 282 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.


"When I read The Lathe of Heaven as a young man, my mind was boggled; now when I read it, more than twenty-five years later, it breaks my heart. Only a great work of literature can bridge - so thrillingly - that impossible span." (Michael Chabon)

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

"Gracefully developed...extremely inventive.... What science fiction is supposed to do." (Newsweek)

"Profound. Beautifully wrought... [Le Guin's] perceptions of such matters as geopolitics, race, socialized medicine, and the patient-shrink relationship are razor sharp and more than a little cutting." (National Review)

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

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416556966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416556961
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on November 25, 2000
Format: 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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Format: Paperback
Warning - I talk about some minor plot points below.

This is a novel whose premise is so outlandish that it begs for a dramatic opening line. Something that catapults the reader into the story and sets a frantic pace. A line like "Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time". Instead we get this: "Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss." With that opening, and throughout the book, Ursula K. Le Guin refuses to cater to readers who want the focus of the story to be fantastic power and unlimited possibilities. Instead she gives us a man, George Orr, who is relentlessly in balance. He is hard to upset, difficult to anger, but easy to coerce. And through some unknown power of the mind, his uncontrolled dreams change the very fabric of reality.

When a well meaning psychiatrist discovers this power and begins to use it to improve the lot of the human race, Orr must struggle to decide how much change is too much. Although he is curiously without judgment in most things, he feels deeply that the integrity of what is should be respected. Nonetheless, he is such a passive man that he bends to the will of his doctor almost until it is too late.

Because Orr believes so deeply in reality and in humans being what we are, his subconscious cannot help but balance each improvement in humanity with a correspondingly harsh but in hindsight perfectly logical setback. When asked to imagine perfect peace on Earth, his subconscious assumes that there is something else to fight against, in this case aliens. When asked to imagine a world without racial strife, he does not imagine good will breaking out across the planet, but a human race where everyone looks the same.
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Format: Paperback
It is a bit more than a quarter of a century since Ursula K. Le Guin's classic novel of the near future was originally penned; a classic science fiction tale that is quite simply, a masterpiece.

Avon Books has re-issued a new trade paperback format of the book, bringing this imaginative fable of power--both uncontrolled and uncontrollable--to a whole new generation of readers. And if you happened to see the WNET movie adaptation done in 1980, please read (or re-read) the book; as with most book to movie translations, the movie was good--but the book is just so much better!

THE LATHE OF HEAVEN is the story of George Orr--a man whose dreams become reality, for better or worse. Against his will, Orr is incarcerated, then sent for psychiatric care to treat his "delusions". After a few experimental sessions, Dr. Haber, Orr's psychiatrist, realizes what is going on and decides to start tinkering with the real world...to make it better--with devastating ramifications.

Like Philip K. Dick at his best, Le Guin truly gets the reader into the inner machinations of the protagonist's head--while taking sly social sideswipes at such matters as geopolitics, race, socialized medicine, and the patient/shrink relationship. And there is a reason that Le Guin has often been referred to as a "writer's writer". Her prose is artfully wrought with vivid imagery in an inimitable style which conveys more in a few sentences than others tell in pages.

It is an allegorical tale in which a "miracle worker" (George Orr) comes under the control of someone wanting to play "master of the universe" (Dr. Haber).
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