The Lathe of Heaven

November 28, 2017

Just put the Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin down 30 years after reading it for the first time. A short but brilliant work of Science Fiction. She always weaves a masterful tail utilizing a sparse word count creating relatively short but spellbinding books.

As the book commences George Orr, our reluctant hero, is stung out on a cocktail of drugs trying to suppress his dreams because when he dreams effective dreams the World Changes – like goes from mass overcrowding to sparsely populated.

The book, written in 1971, is set in the near future Portland, at a time when Food Wars are in full swing because of over population, mass hunger, and climate change. Clearly Ms. LeGuin was ahead of her time. As an aside this is what draws many of us to Science Fiction that peep into the possible future which often times becomes reality.

At first George’s dreams cause small changes like a different apartment or job. However after he is appended by the drug police and sent to Dr. Haber for evaluation. The good doctor is a sleep specialist has has been developing a machine, The Augmentor to force a person into REM Sleep. The doctor soon realizes George’s dreams change the World. At first in a small way. For example a photo of Mt. Hood disappears off the doctor’s office wall. Soon however the doctor has has George dream larger transformations – like eliminating the overpopulation problem by causing 6 Billion humans to never be born. The doctors dilemma is he can only suggest changes to George and then George implements the change via a dream in his own weird way

Time marches on in our tale and Dr. Haber induces more and more significant modifications to the World and its inhabitants via George’s effective dreams. As the wheel of time turns George becomes more and more reluctant to aid in the doctor’s utopian vision.

As the book nears its climax the moon is inhabitated by Aliens whom soon land on the Earth causing the armies of the World to slaughter millions of their own citizens in a attempt to fight the Aliens which by the way are peace loving souls without any weapons.

The book ends with George working for an Alien in a kitchen store after he has been cured of effective dreaming by the doctor who is now locked up in a looney bin after trying to effective dream himself with the help of his machine.