The Lathe Of Heaven (Ursula Le Guin)

First Published 1971

Gollancz’s SF Masterworks Series.

Ursula Le Guin has long been one of the SF greats on my reading list along with Philip K. Dick, Octvia Butler and Robert A. Heinlein. Of Late I’ve been able to get into some thanks to the new Masterworks series.

George Orr appears at first to have a drugs dependency problem. He has been using other people’s prescription cards to help suppress his dreams. Once caught Orr has no choice but to submit himself to a psychiatrist, Dr. Haber. It is either that or he gets sent down.

At first Haber believes Orr is simply psychotic but then he begins to realise there is a truth behind why Orr wished to suppress his dreams. Orr’s dreams alter reality. Not just simple changes lacking continuity but such deeply rooted changes they alter the narrative history of the world to fit the changes.

This realisation turns Haber power hungry where, using hypno-suggestion, attempts to build his perfect world using Orr’s dreams.

Le Guins work then turns to the flawed attempts to make a perfect reality, how power corrupts, but it is more subtle and interesting than that. The book considers a whole range of scenarios from eradicating racism through making everyone grey, to euthanasia, alien invasion, super plagues and unified world government. The ends are unexpected and the results often making things worse.

This is an intriguing book that like many grand SF novels discusses great ideas and morals that are relavent to us. Ones that should not be dismissed just because of the fantastical elements. Is there such a thing as a perfect world? Do we even want it?