THE LATHE OF HEAVEN is a 1971 science fiction novel by American
Ursula K. Le Guin
Translated editions have titled the novel differently. The German and first Portuguese edition titles, Die Geißel des Himmels and O Flagelo dos Céus, mean literally "the scourge of heaven". The French, Swedish and second Portuguese edition titles, L'autre Côté du Rêve, På Andra Sidan Drömmen and Do Outro Lado do Sonho, translate as "the other side of the dream".
The book is set in
George Orr, a draftsman , has long been abusing drugs to prevent himself from having "effective" dreams, which change reality. After having one of these dreams, the new reality is the only reality for everyone else, but George retains memory of the previous reality. Under threat of being placed in an asylum , Orr is forced to undergo "voluntary" psychiatric care for his drug abuse.
George begins attending therapy sessions with an ambitious psychiatrist and sleep researcher named William Haber. Orr claims that he has the power to dream "effectively" and Haber, gradually coming to believe it, seeks to use George's power to change the world. His experiments with a biofeedback/EEG machine, nicknamed the Augmentor, enhance Orr's abilities and produce a series of increasingly intolerable alternative worlds , based on an assortment of utopian (and dystopian ) premises:
* When Haber directs George to dream a world without racism , the skin of everyone on the planet becomes a uniform light gray. * An attempt to solve the problem of overpopulation proves disastrous when George dreams a devastating plague which wipes out much of humanity and gives the current world a population of one billion rather than seven billion. * George attempts to dream into existence "peace on Earth" – resulting in an alien invasion of the Moon which unites all the nations of Earth against the threat.
Each effective dream gives Haber more wealth and status, until he is effectively ruler of the world. Orr's economic status also improves, but he is unhappy with Haber's meddling and just wants to let things be. Increasingly frightened by Haber's lust for power and delusions of Godhood, Orr seeks out a lawyer named Heather Lelache to represent him against Haber. Heather is present at one therapeutic session, and comes to understand George's situation. He falls in love with Heather, and even marries her in one reality; however, he is unsuccessful in getting out of therapy.
George tells Heather that the "real world" had been destroyed in a
nuclear war in April 1998. George dreamed it back into existence as he
lay dying in the ruins. He doubts the reality of what now exists,
hence his fear of Haber's efforts to improve it. Portland and
Heather has seen one change of reality and has a multiple memory –
remembering that her pilot husband either died early in the Middle
East War or else died just before the truce that ended the war in the
face of the alien threat. She tries to help George but also tries to
improve the world, saying that the aliens should no longer be on the
Moon. George dreams this, but the result is that they have invaded the
Earth instead. In the resultant fighting,
They go back to Haber, who has George dream another dream in which
the aliens are actually peaceful. For a time there is stability, but
Haber goes on changing things. His suggestion that George dream away
racism results in everyone becoming gray; Heather, whose parents were
of different races, never existed in this new reality. George manages
to dream up a gray version of her, married to him and with a less
Orr has a conversation with one of the aliens, suddenly comes to understand his situation, and thereby gains the courage to stand up to Haber. Haber, frustrated with Orr's resistance, uses what he has learned from studying George's brain during his sessions of hypnosis and controlled dreaming, and decides to take on effective dreaming himself. Haber's first effective dream represents a significant break with the realities created by Orr, and threatens to destroy reality altogether. Orr is able to shut off the Augmentor – even as coherent existence is dissolving into undifferentiated chaos – reaching the "off" switch through pure force of will. The world is saved, but random bits of the various recent realities are now jumbled together. Haber's mind is left broken. Heather, presumably her original self, exists, though with only a slight memory of George.
Theodore Sturgeon , reviewing
"One of the best novels, and most important to understanding of the
nature of our world, is Ursula Le Guin's The
Though technology plays a minor role, the novel is largely concerned
with philosophical questions about our desire to control our destiny,
with Haber's positivist approach pitted against a
The book is critical of behaviorism . Orr, a deceptively mild yet very strong and honest man, is labeled sick because he is immensely frightened by his ability to change reality. He is forced to undergo therapy whether he wants to or not. His efforts to rid himself of Haber are viewed as suspect because he is a psychiatric patient. Haber, meanwhile, is very charming, extroverted , and confident, yet it is he who eventually goes insane and almost destroys reality. He dismisses Orr's qualms about meddling with reality with paternalistic psychobabble , and is more concerned with his machine and Orr's powers than with curing his patient.
The book is also critical of the philosophy of utilitarianism , satirising the phrase "The Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Number." It is highly critical of eugenics throughout and somewhat conflates it with utilitarianism in suggesting that it would be a key feature in a society which took the philosophy as its central doctrine.
Le Guin may have named her protagonist "George Orr" as an homage to
An adaptation entitled The
PBS' rights to rebroadcast the film expired in 1988, and it became
the most-requested program in
The home video release is remastered from a video tape of the
A second adaptation was released in 2002 and retitled
* Novels portal
The Man in the High Castle
* ^ A B "1972 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End.
* ^ "1971 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved
* ^ A B Issued as bonus material on New Video's 2000 release of The