A Bookish Chat & Review: The Lathe of Heaven

A Bookish Chat & Review: The Lathe of Heaven

Friday, February 20, 2015

Here you will find a very unconventional/candid review of The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin in two parts. Shaina of Shaina Reads and I did a buddy read of this sci-fi classic that has been on our TBRs for far too long!

The Lathe of Heaven is an exciting, original science fiction novel starring average dude, George Orr, in the near (but pretty dismal) future. George has a problem. His dreams change reality. Retroactively. And he's the only one who can recall both the old timeline and the new altered timeline. That is, until he is required to seek the help of psychologist, Dr. Haber. Will he help George or does he have a plan? What happens when somebody has the ability to play God?
Read on to find out what we thought of it and check out Part 2 here.

Sections with minor spoilers marked with a *

What We Thought:


Julianne:  wow
  I don't even know where to begin
Shaina I know! 
Julianne:  I guess, first of all, how many stars?
  as basic as it gets
Shaina:  hm
  currently flipping through my copy to get my bearings again
Julianne:  well did you love it or really like it?
  without thinking
  gut reaction
Shaina:  I would say a really like it
  definitely a 4, trying to determine if it's 4.5
  ^ courtesy of my guts
Julianne:  haha
Shaina:  it was one of the most original stories I've read
Julianne:  agreed
  it felt so fresh despite being from the 70s
  or 60s? I think 70s
Shaina:  I'm having a hard time thinking of another to compare it to

Our Le Guin Experiences:

Julianne: was this your first Le Guin?
Shaina:  yes!
  I've been told I should read her by a few people, especially the Oregonians in my life
  (my boyfriend is from there)
Julianne:  haha of course
Shaina:  you?
Julianne:  It was my first novel of hers. I read one short story, though.
  I had many people telling me to read this book, though
  and this was infinitely better than the short story I read
Shaina: I'm glad this one was better
  it definitely made me want to read more by her
  especially The Left Hand of Darkness
Julianne: what's that about?
Shaina:  that's a fantastic question, I'm not sure
  but it's been recommended to me a lot
Julianne:  haha that's how I felt about this book
Shaina:  yeah, I feel like I remember reading you say you'd been gifted multiple copies?
Julianne: haha yeah
  one from my grandpa when I was like 13, one from my friend who killed it on Jeopardy like last  year
  as a birthday present, I believe
  and I trust every recommendation of his
  so I was like ok it's probably time...in a year
Shaina:  I would too, if he's a jeopardy master

On Le Guin's Predictions Of The Future:

Shaina: I was actually really surprised by how spot-on some of Ursula's predictions were.
  obviously earth hasn't been wrecked by climate change, but we're definitely starting to feel its effects
Julianne:  yeah, she pinpointed the problems that have definitely become bigger issues
  but she still didn't predict cell phones
  it seems like the little things are hard for sci fi writers to get right
Shaina:  hahaha, yes 
Julianne:  they're either way overblown chip-in-head technologies
  or like way too similar to how things were
Shaina:  yeah, I couldn't help but thinking of the Augmentor as this like
  super 70s/80s gargantuan computer
  or like something very advanced but dated-looking, like in old sci-fi TV
Julianne:  Oh my god the parking ramp converted buildings are too funny.
Shaina:  I really really want to know what pseudobooze is like.

*On Controlled Violence:

Julianne: the controlled violence was very scary
  the palace of sport?? the citizens arrest/eugenics/WHAT
Shaina:  YEAH
  like, how is this improvement
Shaina:  interesting that they eradicated cancer through eugenics
  like, pretty sure that's not how that works
  but ok
Julianne:  did they not just kill everyone with cancer once they found out?
  like it sounded like they were still eradicatING cancer
Shaina:  hmm, ok, that might make more sense
Julianne:  like that murder he witnessed
Shaina:  I feel like I remember a line where Haber said they'd eradicated the most common disease or something
Shaina:  of course I have no notes
Julianne:  they'd definitely eradicated some stuff
  idk it was a mess
  Haber fucked it
Shaina:  "Eliminated cancer as a major killer."
  yes, because you replaced it with HOMICIDE
Julianne:  hahaha yeah
  implemented PEOPLE as major killers

*On The Aliens:


Shaina:  I gotta admit, though, I'm still a little fuzzy on the aliens
  like, what was with their language and the words that helped George overcome Haber's hypnosis? why were they big turtles??
Julianne:  oh. oh yeah. the ending/the turtles is where I think maybe I'd veer 4.5 instead of 5 stars
  like it just seemed like maybe Ursula was trying to be funny?
  but then it got very serious with their language and how they understand the "effective dream" situation
Shaina:  right, I never fully digested that, the last bit
Julianne:  I don't know. I never really understood what they were trying to communicate even when George seemed to glean a lot
  it just felt a little rushed by the end
Shaina:  yeah, agreed. I liked them, and I think if we'd had a little more time/interaction with them, it would have made more sense
  but as is I just didn't get a good sense for them as characters
  I really enjoyed the alien shop proprietors, though
Julianne:  yesss. and after a while, I really liked the idea of them. I mean obviously them coming to earth was the shit. I definitely gasped.
Shaina:  like, "Do you wish an object." "Thanks, I was just looking." "Please continue this activity."
Julianne:  and they didn't know what they look like?
Shaina:  made me giggle
Julianne:  hahaha yes the interactions were great
  funny without making the story much less serious
  but I was also into how the turtle exterior was a suit
Shaina:  oh, yes! I forgot that they wore suits and that we don't actually know what they look like
Julianne:  and they talk out of their elbows?
Shaina:  yeah, man. I have no idea about that
  it was also interesting (and somewhat typical, I felt) that the humans were the ones to attack the aliens first, rather than try to communicate with them. Ursula's def down on humanity
Julianne:  well, in one reality that was the case
  do we know who attacked first when the aliens were aggressive for half a minute?
  it seemed like they were just smashing shit
  (I mean I still agree with you)
Shaina:  oh true! all these realities are tough to keep track of
Julianne:  also, SIDE QUESTION:
  if they were into the dream stuff, wouldn't they be able to not become a part of George's effective dreaming?
Julianne:  like if they're aware he created it
Shaina:  hmmmm
Julianne:  wouldn't they be like fuck this
  we've got shit to do that isn't running a thrift store?
  I don't know
Shaina:  right, and they've got that funky phrase that lets them peace out of it
Julianne:  it was all so vague with them that there are numerous questions
Shaina:  we should ask 85-yr-old Ursula to write us a book about the turtle aliens 


I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as we enjoyed talking about it! Check out part 2 of our conversation at Shaina Reads.


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