The Lathe of Heaven
By Ursula Le Guin
Continuing my exploration of Le Guin’s classic contributions to science fiction, I picked up The Lathe of Heaven and fell under Le Guin’s spell once more. She has the prodigious gift of creating worlds that are similar to ours but utterly different at the same time. This novel follows George Orr, a man who seeks psychiatric treatment because his dreams become reality. As with The Left Hand of Darkness, this novel is founded upon a very simple but provocative concept. With her characters in place, Le Guin leads her mesmerised reader on a journey into psychology, ethics and even a constructed utopia.
Other writers would take this story bigger, with full-scale battles, mountain-moving and catastrophic plagues described to the extreme. They are all here in Le Guin’s book but she trusts her readers not to need them. The real action is in the minds of Orr and his doctor: pliable morality moulded and remoulded by two very different men. For this is the heart of Le Guin’s novel. It is a book about how the mind copes with suffering and, then, how the mind operates when powerful.
Le Guin’s graceful writing probes so much about the human mind, all thanks to her cracking idea. Science fiction can all too often have too much idea, not enough thought. Le Guin reverses that, respects her reader and therefore crafts a classic.