The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin – A Review

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TheLatheOfHeaven(1stEd)

  Nothing endures, nothing is precise and certain (except the mind of a pedant), perfection is the mere repudiation of that ineluctable marginal inexactitude which is the mysterious inmost quality of Being. – H.G. WellsA Modern Utopia

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven. – Zhuangzi: XXIII

 
 
 
 
 

 


And we’re on to the third book in my Women of Genre Fiction challenge. I’ll spoil my review right now and tell you that it’s my favorite of the three.

As a lot of you already know, Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Lathe of Heaven is the story of George Orr, a man whose dreams can change reality. He tries to prevent this by drugging himself dreamless, but that doesn’t work and he ends up in “voluntary” therapy. His therapist, Dr. Haber, is at first suspicious of Orr’s claims, but when he experiences what Orr’s dreams can do first hand, he chooses to use George instead of help him, claiming he’s working for the greater good of humankind. We all know how that kind of thing usually plays out, don’t we?

Concerned about how Dr. Haber is treating him, George seeks out the assistance of an attorney, Heather LeLache, who then becomes involved in his life and his dreams.

What do I love about this book? Not sure where to begin. I fell in love part way through the first paragraph and was sad when it ended. Now, I just want to start over and read the book again and again until I memorize it.

There isn’t just one thing that stands out. Le Guin’s prose is delicious: heartwrenching, beautiful, and sharply funny.I love the way she plays with language, the words she makes up, the ones she borrows from other works, and the humor she finds in language itself. (Oh, the French diseases of the soul.)

The story itself is strong: dark and creepy, a mix of George Orwell and Philip K. Dick (I know I’m not the first person to come up with that combination). The characters Le Guin creates are wonderful and stick with me, the two I adore and the one I detest, as well. Orr himself is such a strong person for all his quiet fear and insecurity. At one point in the novel, LeLache describes him as such:

It was more than dignity. Integrity? Wholeness? Like a block of wood not carved.

The infinite possibility, the unlimited and unqualified wholeness of being of the uncommitted, the nonacting, the uncarved: the being who, being nothing but himself, is everything.

…He was the strongest person she had ever known, because he could not be moved away from the center.

And then there are the turtles. I won’t say anything more of them, but they are a special part of the book.

Crossings in mist…

I do wonder at the changes that happen to one character’s persona as the book progresses, and Le Guin even brings this up at the end of the story. Why does George change this one person in his dreams and not the other person who’s truly hurting him, and what do those choices mean, if they are his choices?

So much to think about. One of the many reasons I need to reread The Lathe of Heaven. Brilliant book. I love it. 5/5

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