The Lathe of Heaven

Ursula K. Le Guin
The Lathe of Heaven Cover

The Lathe of Heaven


To those who haven't read this, and want something in remembrance of the recently passed author, find this story and read it. It is quick, relatively local, and while none of these worlds is an exact match for ours, it is still an excellent tale of love, responsibility, and truth.

George Orr, dying of radiation sickness in a world destroyed, dreams of another world - and his dreams somehow change reality. To stop these dreams, he goes the route of drugs, and that leads to our first chapter - his latest reality seen from a drug addled perspective. Subsequent chapters focus on other character's viewpoints, dropping more hints about this polluted world (an all-too-possible outcome from the perspective of 1971).

I read this as a youth, and was moved by the basic structures and characters - the good hero, the evil manipulating doctor, the benevolent aliens. In 1980, the WGBH made-for-television version seemed nearly as good as the book, including the wonderful scene with the 45 of "A Little Help From My Friends".

Since then, I've read the book and watched the show, which PBS ceased to air in 1988. I've even watched the re-released version, without the Beatles version. The story is bigger than I first knew, with themes of balance, questions of the right to manipulate the world, and choices of the lesser evil. Le Guin's backgrounds have also come out more, even as they seemed less and less likely scenarios from our modern world.

This beautiful book deserves to be read. For this most recent reading, it was out loud with my daughter and in memory of the late author. I do plan to watch the PBS video version one more time as well - will probably pass on the A&E remake, though.