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The Lathe of Heaven | [Ursula K. Le Guin]

The Lathe of Heaven

George Orr's dreams do change the world. He is the only one who knows it...he and the power-mad psychiatrist who is forcing George to dream a new reality - a better reality that is free from war, disease, overpopulation, and all human misery. But for every man-made dream of utopia, there is a terrifying, unforeseeable consequence...
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Publisher's Summary

George Orr's dreams do change the world. He is the only one who knows it...he and the power-mad psychiatrist who is forcing George to dream a new reality - a better reality that is free from war, disease, overpopulation, and all human misery. But for every man-made dream of utopia, there is a terrifying, unforeseeable consequence; so George must dream and dream again, forever seeking a perfect future - until the very essence of cosmic reality begins to disintegrate. The Lathe of Heaven is perhaps the finest, most eerily provocative novel from an author who is world renowned for the dramatic force of her fiction.

©1971 by Ursula K. Leguin.; (P)1997 by Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

  • Locus Award, 1972

"What Science Fiction is supposed to do." (Newsweek)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (307 )
5 star
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4.3 (105 )
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3.9 (98 )
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3 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Mubarak DohaQatar 04-13-08
    Mubarak DohaQatar 04-13-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Book, Bad Reader"

    This is my second read for Le Guin after the Earthsea cycle, and I was definitely not disappointed. The reader, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. The reading was all on the same tone, and absolutely empty of any emotion. To be able to not fall asleep throughout the book is a testament to Le Guin's writing ability for sure, for that reader's voice was trying to do the opposite.

    I still recommend it big time. A very enjoyable book.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Santee, CA, USA 04-07-04
    Lisa Santee, CA, USA 04-07-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of my favorites!"

    I am not normally a fan of LeGuin's, being a sci-fi rather than sci-fantasy fan, but this novel is different, and very unique! I liked the narrator's style, and found the entire book facinating from start to finish. I'm still thinking about it, months later! In fact, I think I will re-listen to it very soon!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Morrinsville, N/A, New Zealand 10-26-05
    Andrew Morrinsville, N/A, New Zealand 10-26-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    4
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    "Powerfull"

    I approached this audio book with some trepidation, my only experience of LeGiuns work being "The Dispossesed", a book I have read many times, enjoyed as much for its message and thought provoking qualities as for its evocative landscapes. This audio book is in the same league, rich narrative, spare descriptive writting, powerfull message. It would assist the listener to have some understanding of "TAO", this concept being central to the theme. The Audio is a little dated, but the ear soon adjusts and the narrator does a fine job.A great follow on from "The Time Travellers Wife" which had been my previous listen.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristen Boca Raton, FL, USA 03-01-05
    Kristen Boca Raton, FL, USA 03-01-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Will keep you thinking"

    I read this book several years ago, and actually enjoyed it more in this format.
    This is not the very best thing Le Guin has written (_Always Coming Home_ and the Earthsea books are my candidates) yet it's a clear 5 star listen for me. Le Guin is one of the masters of SF-Fantasy; she transcends the genre while usually remaining a fun read. The plot is moves fast, with considerable pathos and suspense. The main character is a quiet, rather passive, man, and yet I came to like and respect him and care what happened to him and his world. What stays with me most, thought, are certain dream-like images, both visual and conceptual. They still float occasionally to consciousness, though I listened to the book several months ago.
    The philosophy behind the book seems Taoist to me - and Le Guin has mentioned in her non-fiction that Taoism appeals to her. Sometimes the intellectual sub-text seemed a bit heavy-handed, but over all the book is a thorough success.
    I myself found the narrator understated, but excellent. She added value to the book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ESK Moscow, Russia 11-29-12
    ESK Moscow, Russia 11-29-12

    There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "What if you had effective dreaming?"

    The Lathe of Heaven is a story about a man, George Orr, whose dreams come true. His dreams, or rather nightmares, change reality. But instead of putting things right, Orr's dreams create distorted dystopian realities that substitute the original ones. When Orr is put under compulsory treatment because of drug addiction, his psychiatrist, Dr. Haber, has it in mind to use Orr's powers to his own advantage.
    The title is taken from a grossly mistranslated quotation from Chuang Tzu's writings. "To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven." U. Le Guin later said that the translation was wrong, since in the times of Chuang Tzu there were no lathes.
    The LoH is thought-provoking and philosophical as it raises racial, social, political, and ethical issues. What if we could control our life and destiny? What if we had no diversity, but eliminated racism, poverty and overpopulation? What's better: to change things by fair means or foul, or go with the flow, "let be and let go", "be in touch with the world"?
    Before I listened to the audiobook, I watched the 1980 adaptation a couple of years ago. I'd say I liked the ideas behind the film rather than the film itself. The budget was lean, and the special effects were cheesy, but I loved the plot and the characters.
    The audiobook made a really strong impression on me. The performance wasn't bad, but could have had more zing to it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Colton, NY, USA 06-13-08
    Robert Colton, NY, USA 06-13-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent book, so-so production"

    LeGuin's brilliant vision shines through in this must-read book for any science fiction fan -- or anyone interested in a study of human character, emotion, or society -- but the reading is only passable. It isn't bad enough to be distracting, but I've certainly heard better in audiobooks. Still, don't let that turn you off. This is an excellent work that deserves your attention.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 06-07-14
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 06-07-14

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "“We're in the Novel, not against it."

    “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 who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven." —Chuang Tse: XXIII

    “We're in the world, not against it. It doesn't work to try to stand outside things and run them, that way. It just doesn't work, it goes against life. There is a way but you have to follow it. The world is, no matter how we think it ought to be. You have to be with it. You have to let it be.” - Ursula K. Le Guin

    Le Guin seems to have mixed Taoism with PKD and produced a funky SF novella on determinism, dreams, psychology, control, love, wholeness, and power. It wasn't a perfect SF novel. I think the last bit kinda rolled away from her, but like any good PKD or Vonnegut novel, the imperfections of this novel are small enough to let it float and be read far into the future.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Primrose Austin, TX USA 03-26-05
    Jennifer Primrose Austin, TX USA 03-26-05

    High Brow Buyer

    HELPFUL VOTES
    119
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    "The Grand Mistress of Fantasy"

    Writen by the master - I like her Earthsea series better but the characters here are wonderful - the plot fasinating if a little hard to follow at times.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    xDevianz IL 04-24-13
    xDevianz IL 04-24-13

    Devianz

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    "Amazing Book, Automoton Reader"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would recommend that everyone read the book, but not this audible version. The automoton reading this is abysmal and extremely detracts from this amazing story. I found it very difficult to pay attention to because there was no charisma behind the voice. I am sad because this is one of my favorite books. Ursula Le Guin is amazing. I won't buy another book read by this narrator. I could have downloaded it on my Kindle and had it read the book to me.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    George.


    What didn’t you like about Susan O'Malley’s performance?

    Rarely inflects, characters all sound like a microsoft voice.


    Did The Lathe of Heaven inspire you to do anything?

    Inspired me to write a poem.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly La Seyne sur Mer, France 01-02-12
    Holly La Seyne sur Mer, France 01-02-12

    I listen to audiobooks on my morning run, so stories I like are ones that are entertaining enough to make me want to get out of bed at 6am.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Sci-Fantasy"

    Though a little predictable (what post-apocalyptic book isn't?), this was an excellent book about the possibility and power of the human mind. Sometimes irrational to the point of amusing other times horrifying, it was a good, thought provoking read. Very entertaining and one I couldn't wait to get back to. Le Guin always knows how to suck people into her stories and envelope them within.

    I have to agree with many of the other listeners on the reader. Sometimes I found the flatness of the voice fitting - especially with the psychologist character - other times I found it jarring and out of place. Overall, a good performance, but not the best, it could have a bit more variation.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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