Wed, 15 Apr 2015
Dream Time

The Lathe of Heaven
By Ursula Le Guin

It took me a while to get into this book, the first third seemed a little slow. Thankfully though, it got a lot better and by the end I found it moving.

George Orr's dreams change waking reality, and all of history making up this reality. A gift? No a curse. Wanting to be "cured" of this terrible burden, he is given therapy by William Haber, a scientist and sleep researcher. The talented, well meaning but somewhat megalomaniacal Haber decides to use Orr instead, directing the dreams himself using a machine of his own design. Whatever good intentions Haber has, dreams are far from logical and things do not always go to plan. The world goes through a number of (sometimes) radical changes throughout the book as a consequence, until Orr discovers some understanding of his place in the world.

There's a fair amount to digest here, not least the nature of reality. Le Guin weaves in some Chinese style mysticism, from the novel's title, the Lao Tse aphorisms that often head the chapters and the toying with the dream versus the real. Much the sort of thing Philip K. Dick was always juggling in his books.

Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop, at what cannot be understood,is a high attainment. Those that cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
-- Chuang Tse: XXIII

This quote gives the novel its name but it's a misquote apparently.

A bit of a slog to start but in the end worth reading, with some thought provoking ideas. You have to be careful what you wish for.