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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Lathe of Heaven

The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin This is by far my favourite Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel (well, neck and neck with her novella [b:The Word for World is Forest|276767|The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle #6)|Ursula K. Le Guin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1283091038s/276767.jpg|3256815]). Her most popular science fiction books (thus excluding the classic Earthsea fantasy series) tend to be [b:The Left hand of Darkness|18423|The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)|Ursula K. Le Guin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388229638s/18423.jpg|817527] or [b:The Dispossessed|13651|The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #5)|Ursula K. Le Guin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1353467455s/13651.jpg|2684122], both of these are excellent books but The Lathe of Heaven is the most mind blowing. It is as if she was channeling [a:Philip K. Dick|4764|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1264613853p2/4764.jpg], and according to Wikipedia it is actually her tribute to the late great author.

The Lathe of Heaven is the story of George Orr an insignificant little man who dreams big!. Whenever Orr has an “effective” dream, the dream becomes real (“effective” dream as opposed to normal dreams which he also has). Reality reshapes in accordance with his effective dreams and even changes retroactively to ensure consistency and avoid paradoxes. Orr gives a great example of this during a session with his dastardly psychiatrist William Haber: if he dreams “effectively” of a pink dog when he wakes up there will be a pink dog, but it would not surprise anybody as there will have always been pink dogs in the world, and one has wandered into the room. So it is not a case of a pink dog suddenly popping into existence.

When I read that I had to pause and imagine the implication and it really is one of the most intriguing sci-fi concepts ever. Unfortunately for George Orr and the rest of the world he is manipulated by Haber who turns out to be an egomaniac. With the aid of an “Augmentor” machine of his own invention he is able to indulge his God complex and alter reality the way he sees fit. From that point reality start warping and changing like taffy. It would be a crime for me to elaborate on the numerous changes wrought by Orr’s effective dreams, I really recommend that you find out for yourself.

Le Guin has one advantage over PKD in that she does write better prose, dialog and characterization. Personally I do not have any problems with PKD’s writing style but in term of literary merit I think Le Guin is in a different league. (PKD is the champion in the brilliantly wacky plots department I think). Here is an example:

“And since then Haber had at least been candid with Orr about his manipulations. Though candid was not the right word; Haber was much too complex a person for candor. Layer after layer might peel off the onion and yet nothing be revealed but more onion. That peeling off of one layer was the only real change”

Add her prose prowess to her massive imagination and her legendary status within the SF/F genres is not at all surprising. During the last few chapters Le Guin’s imagination goes into overdrive and I felt totally immersed in her dream like shifting reality. Her characters are always believable and suitably lovable or despicable as the plot requires. Beside Orr and Haber there is another central character called Heather Lelache who is both tough and sympathetic. There are some poignant scenes involving her that I find to be quite moving.

I could go on and on about this book and I will probably read it again one day (this is already a reread). It is one of the all-time greats and if you love science fiction it is not to be missed.