Synopses & Reviews
George Orr is a man who discovers he has the peculiar ability to dream things into being for better or for worse. In desperation, he consults a psychotherapist who promises to help him but who, it soon becomes clear, has his own plans for George and his dreams.
The Lathe of Heaven is a dark vision and a warning a fable of power uncontrolled and uncontrollable. It is a truly prescient and startling view of humanity, and the consequences of playing God.
"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
"Le Guin neatly and eerily conveys the bad-dream civilization which is George's everyday world." Washington Post Book World
"A very good book....A writer's writer, Ursula Le Guin brings reality itself to the proving ground." Theodore Sturgeon
"A brilliant novel about the future." Pensacola News
About the Author
Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of more than one hundred short stories, two collections of essays, four volumes of poetry, and nineteen novels. Her best-known fantasy works, the Earthsea books, have sold millions of copies in America and England, and have been translated into sixteen languages. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness
, is considered epochmaking in the field because of its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity.
Three of Le Guin's books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and among the many honors her writing has received are the National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, the Kafka Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Harold D. Vursell Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
How do you revise a novel like
The Lathe of Heaven where each chapter appears to be a revision of the one before?
That's a neat question! Well, since when I was writing it I just followed George's dreams and Haber's mistakes, without plotting the novel at all in advance, revision couldn't consist of big changes or remaking decisions about what happened in the story: it consisted of trying to make sure it all hung together in some way, emotionally, aesthetically, meaningfully, even when it changed direction or took great leaps. And getting the language right, of course all the fiddling and tweaking and fine tuning that are (actually) what I love best about writing. (If I rewrote that novel now, after all these years, which of course would be impossible, I would cut most of the dialogue down, by the way. People go on too long talking! All except the turtles. They talk just enough.)
In your novel The Lathe of Heaven, you portray the aliens as kind beings compassionate to the novel's hero. Why is it important to you that they receive help from the aliens? Do you think the first aliens we meet will be benevolent?
Do I think the first aliens we meet will be benevolent? No. Honestly, I don't think we're going to meet any aliens, nice or nasty, first or last not any time soon. Space travel and other-world beings are wonderful ideas, very useful to story tellers; you can say things about us and our world by talking about other beings and other worlds imaginary ones that you couldn't say any other way. But it has nothing to do with predicting an imminent possibility, and nothing to do with belief. You know, I write about dragons, too, for the same reason, but I don't think dragons exist outside the human mind. The imagination is our most useful tool, and it's most useful when it isn't taken literally!
So, the aliens being imaginary, being part of a made-up story, they are what the story needs, what fits into the story best. In the case of The Lathe of Heaven, the world has got itself into such a horrible mess and as I kept writing and Dr. Haber kept making the world so much worse every time he tried to make it better eventually there was no way George, or I, could clear up the mess. We definitely needed some help from outside. A little help from our friends. So (to the surprise of all of us!) the aliens showed up on Earth, in the form of giant sea turtles. I really do like them a lot.