Spinning The Lathe of Heaven

jpegRecreational reading is getting harder and harder to fit in so when I pick something for pleasure I usually need a connection to something in order to ensure it’s not a complete waste of my time. Such was the case with The Lathe Of Heaven. I was first turned on to Ursula K. Le Guin in a class taught by Bob Carlson. We read The Left Hand of Darkness in a class called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” So when I stumbled across a reference to The Lathe of Heaven I decided to give it a try.

The fluid nature of the story was at first disorienting but, as I settled in I became at home in a world that was constantly being rewritten. The main character wrestles with his dreams because he has discovered that they actually control the fate of humanity. George Orr wakes up one day to discover that the worlds he dreams change reality. Terrified at the lack of control he has over this power, George attempts to stop his dreams through the use of drugs. This lands him trouble with the government and he ends up under the care of a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields and decides he must commandeer it for the greater good. As George fights to control his own mind he must also navigate the dangers that arise as his doctor becomes adept at manipulating George’s dreams for his own purposes.

Le Guin’s use of a changing reality forces the reader to consider the very nature of perception. George’s experience with his gift serves is an interesting vehicle to consider how personal our individual reality is. Freed from the scrutiny of others it can be built into narratives that exist only in our minds and are therefore constantly changing and shifting to accommodate our needs and desires.

Written in 1971, the dystopian sci-fi work remains relevant and even timely. The mammoth government health care machine in the story removes much of the individual’s ability to choose their own treatment options and obsessive surveillance drives people into black market behavior. But the truly sinister alignment is in the government care-takers good natured belief that they know best and that they alone can wield this mighty power that George possesses. Power corrupts, absolute power…well in Le Guin’s story, absolute power can destroy reality.

This article was originally published at Growing Interest

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Posted by on Aug 1 2014. Filed under Book Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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