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Bryan

Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

Because I need a place where I can pretend that people are reading what I'm writing...
The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin

Another great Le Guin novel. I swear, I like this woman's writing more and more with each book of hers I read!

 

Although nominally a science fiction novel, the actual science was pretty scanty (which I'm fine with), and George Orr's power to alter reality with his dreams was more like something I'd expect to find in a fantasy novel (which I'm also fine with). The true strength of this book wasn't its ability to fit neatly within genre boundaries but instead examining ideas - in this case, Le Guin pits the equanimity of Taoism against the logical ruthlessness of positivism. I find it interesting that this is essentially a science fiction story that calls into question the validity of the scientific mindset. Even though I can identify with elements of the personalities of both Orr and his abuser, the psychologist Haber, I like that Le Guin was challenging the type of thinking that was and still is so prevalent in the genre of SF.

 

I'll comment on something I noticed while reading other people's reviews. It seems that quite a few people saw a nobility in Dr. Haber that I don't see. Many reviewers talk about whether the ends justify the means or Haber's desire to save humanity from itself...I saw his attempts to "better" the world as nothing more than a way to satisfy his enormous ego, pure hubris. It should be noted that Haber first sought to improve his own position, and with each successive attempt to alter the world, his lot in life got better and better, until he was essentially the most important man in the world. Even this was not enough for him, however, and his next move was to try and claim ultimate power for himself. These are hardly the actions of an altruist.

 

The characters are actually the weak point of this book, in my opinion. Both Orr and Haber were somewhat exaggerated in their personalities, and although I'm sure this was the author's intent, it made them seem a bit like caricatures. Heather is a notable exception, and I would have liked more of her, but there you have it. That criticism aside, this was a great read, and deserves its place amongst the classics of science fiction.