Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Lathe of Heavan

"Dreams come true, changing the real world" is a relatively common theme which has been explored quite a few times - I know I've read at least three stories based around the idea. Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven does a good job of it.

The novel starts with George Orr, an otherwise perfectly normal person, whose dreams occasionally change the world. He is terrified of this, and takes drugs to suppress his dreams. The plot kicks off when he is caught abusing pharmaceuticals and sent compulsory rehab, and Dr Haber (who I only just noticed when writing this, is an anagram of "rehab") realises that his patient is not delusion, and that this power of dreaming can be used to change things.

The novel explores a range of worlds, each a different dystopia. An underlying theme is that we can't really change things for the better, as there are always unexpected consequences to our choices, and the more significant the choice, the more significant the consequence. There is quite a bit of philosophy packed in here, and the key tension in the book is between Haber's very scientific, positivist approach, and Orr's calm acceptance of the world as it is.

Lathe of Heaven is quite an interesting read, and deserves its place in the SF Masterworks series that I found it in.

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