The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
ight. So I had promised you the C.S. Lewis, but you see I never read just one book at a time and I finished this one first and my mother came from Chicago to visit me so I haven’t been reading much this week, and, well, sorry. This should teach me not to state what I intend to write about for next week.
Pretty much, if you are into sf and fantasy at all, you have at least heard of Ursula K. Le Guin. She is well known for A Wizard of Earthsea which started the Earthsea series, and The Left Hand of Darkness which won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. The Lathe of Heaven isn’t as well known, though I think A&E did a tv version of it a few years back that completely messed up the plot. The novel follows a young man named George Orr whose dreams come true. Not his hopes and aspirations, mind you. What he dreams while asleep, he wakes up and finds they have come true.
Of course, one cannot just go around saying this without eventually being told to find some psychological help, which is what happens to Mr. Orr. He winds up in the office of Dr. William Haber. Dr. Haber soon realizes that his young patient isn’t cracked and what he is dreaming really is coming true. So he gets the bright idea that he can use George’s dreams to make the world a better place by getting rid of such things as war and racism and overpopulation. Of course, if you’ve read any science fiction at all, you already know that this is a BAD IDEA. Because anytime you encounter someone trying to "play God" and make the world better, there are bound to be disasterous results. Or else there wouldn’t be a story.
So Dr. Haber builds a machine to intensify and help control George’s dreams. George both submits to this treatment and tries to stop it. Dr. Haber gets too big for his britches. And there is a woman. Of course there is a love interest. A lawyer George seeks out to try to get out of continuing to go to Dr. Haber named Heather Lelache. By the end of the book she has changed jobs and personalities through the number of dreams George has and winds up a legal secretary.
It is a short, little novel and a fast read. A good introduction to Le Guin’s sf–Left Hand of Darkness, as I remember it, was much more dense. It has a good moral and decent social commentary and if it takes itself just a little too seriously, well, most books that have things like morals and commentary and an agenda are prone to do that. And Le Guin is always a good writer. Read this when you need to remind yourself that maybe the world wouldn’t be better if you had the ability to fix it.