Lathe of Heaven

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In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George's dreams for his own purposes.

The Lathe of Heaven is an eerily prescient novel from award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin that ...

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The Lathe of Heaven

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Overview

In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George's dreams for his own purposes.

The Lathe of Heaven is an eerily prescient novel from award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin that masterfully addresses the dangers of power and humanity's self-destructiveness, questioning the nature of reality itself. It is a classic of the science fiction genre.

Vibrantly repackaged in a stunning new format, this classic science fiction novel offers "a rare and powerful synthesis of poetry and science, reason and emotion" The New York Times. In the year 2002, George Orr discovers his dreams can--and do--change the world. 176 pp. Targeted ads.

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Editorial Reviews

Theodore Sturgeon
A very good book...A writer's writer, Ursula Le Guin brings reality itself to the proving ground.
National Review
Profound...Beautifully wrought...Her percetions of such matters as geopolitics, race, socialized medicine, and the patient/shrink relationship are razor sharp and more than a little cutting.
Washington Post Book World
Le Guin neatly and eerily conveys the bad-dream civilization which is George's everyday world.
Pensacola News
A brilliant novel about the future.
Newsweek
Gracefully developed...Extremely inventive...What science fiction is supposed to do.
New York Times
A rare and powerful synthesis of poetry and science, reason and emotion.
From the Publisher
"When I read The Lathe of Heaven as a young man, my mind was boggled; now when I read it, more than twenty-five years later, it breaks my heart. Only a great work of literature can bridge - so thrillingly - that impossible span." - Michael Chabon

"A rare and powerful synthesis of poetry and science, reason and emotion." — The New York Times

"Gracefully developed...extremely inventive.... What science fiction is supposed to do." — Newsweek

"Profound. Beautifully wrought...[Le Guin's] perceptions of such matters as geopolitics, race, socialized medicine, and the patient-shrink relationship are razor sharp and more than a little cutting." — National Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380791859
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 175
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Ursula K.  Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most distinguished fantasy and science fiction writers of all time. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the National Book Award, and the Newbery Honor. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at UrsulaKLeguin.com.

Biography

Speculative fiction, magic realism, "slipstream" fiction -- all these terms could apply to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. Unfortunately, none was in common use when she started writing in the early 1960s. As a young writer, Le Guin weathered seven years of rejections from editors who praised her novels' elegant prose but were puzzled by their content. At a time when the only literary fiction was realistic fiction, as Le Guin later told an interviewer for The Register-Guard in Portland, Oregon, "There just wasn't a pigeonhole for what I write."

At long last, two of her stories were accepted for publication, one at a literary journal and one at a science-fiction magazine. The literary journal paid her in copies of the journal; the science-fiction magazine paid $30. She told The Register-Guard, "I thought: 'Oooohhh! They'll call what I write science fiction, will they? And they'll pay me for it? Well, here we go!' "

Le Guin continued to write and publish stories, but her breakthrough success came with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The novel, which tells of a human ambassador's encounters with the gender-changing inhabitants of a distant planet, was unusual for science fiction in that it owed more to anthropology and sociology than to the hard sciences of physics or biology. The book was lauded for its intellectual and psychological depth, as well as for its fascinating premise. "What got to me was the quality of the story-telling," wrote Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. "She's taken the mythology, psychology -- the entire creative surround -- and woven it into a jewel of a story."

Since then, Le Guin has published many novels, several volumes of short stories, and numerous poems, essays, translations, and children's books. She's won an arm's-length list of awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and a National Book Award for The Farthest Shore. Over the years, she has created and sustained two fictional universes, populating each with dozens of characters and stories. The first universe, Ekumen, more or less fits into the science-fiction mode, with its aliens and interplanetary travel; the second, Earthsea, is a fantasy world, complete with wizards and dragons. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The New York Review of Books, "Either one would have been sufficient to establish Le Guin's reputation as a mistress of its genre; both together make one suspect that the writer has the benefit of arcane drugs or creative double-jointedness or ambidexterity."

More impressive still is the way Le Guin's books have garnered such tremendous crossover appeal. Unlike many writers of science fiction, she is regularly reviewed in mainstream publications, where her work has been praised by the likes of John Updike and Harold Bloom. But then, Le Guin has never fit comfortably into a single genre. As she said in a Science Fiction Weekly interview, "I know that I'm always called 'the sci-fi writer.' Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while I really live in several boxes. It's probably hurt the sales of my realistic books like Searoad, because it tended to get stuck into science fiction, where browsing readers that didn't read science fiction would never see it."

Le Guin has also published a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a book that has influenced her life and writing since she was a teenager; she has translated fiction by Angelica Gorodischer and a volume of poems by Gabriela Mistral; and, perhaps most gratifyingly for her fans, she has returned to the imaginary realm of Earthsea. Tehanu, which appeared in 1990, was subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea," but Le Guin found she had more to tell, and she continued with Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind. "I thought after 'Tehanu' the story was finished, but I was wrong," she told Salon interviewer Faith L. Justice. "I've learned never to say 'never.' "

Good To Know

The "K" in Ursula K. Le Guin stands for Le Guin's maiden name, Kroeber. Her father was the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber; her mother, the writer Theodora Kroeber, is best known for the biography Ishi in Two Worlds.

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    1. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 21, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Lathe of Heaven

A Novel
By Ursula K. Leguin

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Leguin All right reserved. ISBN: 0060512741

Chapter One

Confucius and you are both dreams, and I who say you are dreams am a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a wise man may explain it; that tomorrow will not be for ten thousand generations.

-Chuang Tse: II

Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss. The light shines through it, and the dark enters it. Borne, flung, tugged from anywhere to anywhere, for in the deep sea there is no compass but nearer and farther, higher and lower, the jellyfish bangs and sways; pulses move slight and quick within it, as the vast diurnal pulses beat in the moondriven sea. Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and.power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.

But here rise the stubborn continents. The shelves of gravel and the cliffs of rock break from water baldly into air, that dry, terrible outerspace of radiance and instabi'li'ty, where there is no support for life. And now, now the currents mislead and the waves betray, breaking their endless circle, to leap up in loud foam against rock and air, breaking . . . .

What will thecreature made all of seadrift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?


His eyelids had been burned away, so that he could not close his eyes, and the light entered into his brain, searing.He could not turn his head, for blocks of fallen concrete pinned him down and the steel rods projecting from their cores held his head in a vise. When these were gone he could move again; he sat up. He was on the cement steps; a dandelion flowered by his hand, growing from a little cracked place in the steps. After a while he stood up, but as soon as he was on his feet he felt deathly sick, and knew it was the radiation sickness. The door was only two feet from him, for the balloonbed when inflated half filled his room. He got to the door and opened it and went through it. There stretched the endless linoleum corridor, heaving slightly up and down for miles, and far down it, very far, the men's room. He started out toward it, trying to hold on to the wall, but there was nothing to hold on to, and the wall turned into the floor.

"Easy now. Easy there."

The elevator guard's face was hanging above him like a paper lantern, pallid, fringed with graying hair.

"It's the radiation," he said, but Mannie didn't seem to understand, saying only, "Take it easy."

He was back on his bed in his room.

"You drunk?"

"No."

"High on something?"

"Sick."

"What you been taking?"

"Couldn't find the fit," he said, meaning that he had been trying to lock the door through which the dreams came, but none of the keys had fit the lock.

"Medic's coming up from the fifteenth floor," Mannie said faintly through the roar of breaking seas.

He was floundering and trying to breathe. A stranger was sitting on his bed holding a hypodermic and looking at him.

'That did it," the stranger said. "He's coming round. Feel like hell? Take it easy. You ought to feel like hell. Take all this at once?" He displayed seven of the little plastifoil envelopes from the autodrug dispensary. "Lousy mixture, barbiturates and Dexedrine. What were you trying to do to yourself?"

It was hard to breathe, but the sickness was gone, leaving only an awful weakness."They're all dated this week," the medic went on, a young man with a brown ponytail and bad teeth. "Which means they're not all off your own Pharmacy Card, so I've got to report you for borrowing. I don't like to, but I got called in and I haven't any choice, see. But don't worry, with these drugs it's not a felony, you'll just get a notice to report to the police station and they'll send you up to the Med School or the Area Clinic for examination, and you'll be referred to an M.D. or a shrink for VTT-Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment. I filled out the form on you already, used your ID; all I need to know is how long you been using these drugs in more than your personal allotment?"

"Couple months."

The medic scribbled on a paper on his knee.

"And who'd you borrow Pharm Cards from?"

"Friends."

"Got to have the names."

After a while the medic said, "One name, anyhow. Just a formality. It won't get 'em in trouble. See, they'll just get a reprimand from the police, and HEW Control will keep a check on their Pharm Cards for a year. Just a formality. One name."

"I can't. They were trying to help me"

"Look, if you won't give the names, you're resisting, and you'll either go to jail or get stuck into Obligatory Therapy, in an institution. Anyway they can trace the cards through the autodrug records if they want to, this just saves 'em time. Come on, just give me one of the names."

He covered his face with his arms to keep out the unendurable light and said, "I can't. I can't do it. I need help."

"He borrowed my card," the elevator guard said. "Yeah. Mannie Ahrens, 247-602-6023." The medic's pen went scribble scribble.

"I never used your card."

"So confuse 'em a little. They won't check. People use people's Pharm Cards all the time, they can't check. I loan mine, use another cat's, all the time. Got a whole collection of those reprimand things. They don't know. I taken things HEW never even heard of. You ain't been on the hook before. Take it easy, George."

"I can't," he said, meaning that he could not let Mannie lie for him, could not stop him from lying for him, could not take it easy, could not go on.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Leguin
Copyright © 2003 by Ursula K. Leguin
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

Confucius and you are both dreams, and I who say you are dreams am a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a wise man may explain it; that tomorrow will not be for ten thousand generations.

--Chuang Tse: II

Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss. The light shines through it, and the dark enters it. Borne, flung, tugged from anywhere to anywhere, for in the deep sea there is no compass but nearer and farther, higher and lower, the jellyfish bangs and sways; pulses move slight and quick within it, as the vast diurnal pulses beat in the moondriven sea. Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and.power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.

But here rise the stubborn continents. The shelves of gravel and the cliffs of rock break from water baldly into air, that dry, terrible outerspace of radiance and instabi'li'ty, where there is no support for life. And now, now the currents mislead and the waves betray, breaking their endless circle, to leap up in loud foam against rock and air, breaking . . . .

What will the creature made all of seadrift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?



His eyelids had been burned away, so that he could not close his eyes, and the light entered into his brain, searing.He could not turn his head, for blocks of fallen concrete pinned him down and the steel rods projecting from their cores held his head in a vise. When these were gone he could move again; hesat up. He was on the cement steps; a dandelion flowered by his hand, growing from a little cracked place in the steps. After a while he stood up, but as soon as he was on his feet he felt deathly sick, and knew it was the radiation sickness. The door was only two feet from him, for the balloonbed when inflated half filled his room. He got to the door and opened it and went through it. There stretched the endless linoleum corridor, heaving slightly up and down for miles, and far down it, very far, the men's room. He started out toward it, trying to hold on to the wall, but there was nothing to hold on to, and the wall turned into the floor.

"Easy now. Easy there."

The elevator guard's face was hanging above him like a paper lantern, pallid, fringed with graying hair.

"It's the radiation," he said, but Mannie didn't seem to understand, saying only, "Take it easy."

He was back on his bed in his room.

"You drunk?"

"No."

"High on something?"

"Sick."

"What you been taking?"

"Couldn't find the fit," he said, meaning that he had been trying to lock the door through which the dreams came, but none of the keys had fit the lock.

"Medic's coming up from the fifteenth floor," Mannie said faintly through the roar of breaking seas.

He was floundering and trying to breathe. A stranger was sitting on his bed holding a hypodermic and looking at him.

'That did it," the stranger said. "He's coming round. Feel like hell? Take it easy. You ought to feel like hell. Take all this at once?" He displayed seven of the little plastifoil envelopes from the autodrug dispensary. "Lousy mixture, barbiturates and Dexedrine. What were you trying to do to yourself?"

It was hard to breathe, but the sickness was gone, leaving only an awful weakness."They're all dated this week," the medic went on, a young man with a brown ponytail and bad teeth. "Which means they're not all off your own Pharmacy Card, so I've got to report you for borrowing. I don't like to, but I got called in and I haven't any choice, see. But don't worry, with these drugs it's not a felony, you'll just get a notice to report to the police station and they'll send you up to the Med School or the Area Clinic for examination, and you'll be referred to an M.D. or a shrink for VTT--Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment. I filled out the form on you already, used your ID; all I need to know is how long you been using these drugs in more than your personal allotment?"

"Couple months."

The medic scribbled on a paper on his knee.

"And who'd you borrow Pharm Cards from?"

"Friends."

"Got to have the names."

After a while the medic said, "One name, anyhow. Just a formality. It won't get 'em in trouble. See, they'll just get a reprimand from the police, and HEW Control will keep a check on their Pharm Cards for a year. Just a formality. One name."

"I can't. They were trying to help me"

"Look, if you won't give the names, you're resisting, and you'll either go to jail or get stuck into Obligatory Therapy, in an institution. Anyway they can trace the cards through the autodrug records if they want to, this just saves 'em time. Come on, just give me one of the names."

He covered his face with his arms to keep out the unendurable light and said, "I can't. I can't do it. I need help."

"He borrowed my card," the elevator guard said. "Yeah. Mannie Ahrens, 247-602-6023." The medic's pen went scribble scribble.

"I never used your card."

"So confuse 'em a little. They won't check. People use people's Pharm Cards all the time, they can't check. I loan mine, use another cat's, all the time. Got a whole collection of those reprimand things. They don't know. I taken things HEW never even heard of. You ain't been on the hook before. Take it easy, George."

"I can't," he said, meaning that he could not let Mannie lie for him, could not stop him from lying for him, could not take it easy, could not go on. The Lathe of Heaven. Copyright © by Ursula K. Leguin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

We have all, at one time or another, heard the phrase, "Sleeping your life away," and laughed at its absurdity. But what if, upon waking, you are faced with the horrific truth that your life, as it existed the night before, is no longer. In its place is the abstraction of a dream ... your dream.

For George Orr, the effect of his dreams on the world around him is truly more significant than anyone realizes. An insignificant man in a futuristic Earth, Orr has the unwanted power of being able to change the course of world events not only in the future, but back to the very beginning.

Orr has been placed on Voluntary Therapy under the care of Dr. Haber, a distinguished therapist and creator of the Dream Augmentor. At first desiring to help Orr and make the world better, Haber is soon obsessed with the dreaming power and wants it for his own. But with each one of Orr's dreams, things worsen. Millions of people are killed, all races are wiped, and the Aliens land.

Realizing that this world is of his making, for better of for worse, Orr must search within to find the strength to battle Haber and survive in his ever-changing world. A dark tale of an uncontrollable power, The Lathe of Heaven is a masterful rendering of humanity and the powers that corrupt.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What role do the quotes play throughout the novel? Which was your favorite? Why? Which quote, if any, do you think encapsulates the main theme of the novel?

  2. Do you think that George has found a way to stop his dreams at the end? Does the importance lie in his ability to control the dreams or toexterminate them?

  3. What would you do if you could change the world by dreaming? What would be your first dream? Would it be a power you would want to keep?

  4. As much as his world changes around him, Orr was still able to remain true to his core being. How important do you think this stability is to the outcome? Was his therapy helpful in this aspect?

  5. The main tension throughout the novel is that between Orr and his therapist Dr. Haber. How do this tension and its inherent power struggle get resolved? In the end who is the stronger?

  6. Heather LeLache is the main female character throughout the novel. How does her character change, both in her view of Orr as well as her view of the world she lives in? Why is she the only character who is, effectively, reborn?

  7. How does Dr. Haber plan to use Orr's power? Why is he destroyed by his own plans in the end? What is his never-ending dream/nightmare?

  8. Which of Orr's many worlds would you feel comfortable living in?

  9. Despite the changes that wreak havoc upon Orr's world, there are a few elements that remain constant. What are they and why do you think they are important?

  10. Why do you think the aliens are the only ones who can save Orr? What do the aliens represent in his mind?

  11. Can you find reality in a dream?

About the Author

A multiple award-winning author, editor, and anthologist, Ursula K. LeGuin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California -- the daughter of writer Theodora Kroeber and anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber. She went to Radcliffe College, did graduate work at Columbia University and attained a 1953 Fulbright Fellowship. Le Guin married historian Charles A. Le Guin and has three children and three grandchildren. She has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958.

Throughout her illustrious literary career -- 19 novels, short stories in nine collections, two volumes of translation, 13 books for children, three collections of essays, and numerous honorary degrees, teaching posts, and awards -- Le Guin has held to the highest standards in her writing, taking risks that would bring great rewards and praise from her contemporaries.

Having received countless awards -- a National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Award to name a few -- Le Guin has also had three of her books become finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Le Guin's first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, propelled her instantly to the forefront of her field. Since then, she has used the context of her work to delve into such issues as gender roles, morality, and the individual's ordinary grief. Working in so many forms -- from poetry and prose to screenplays and voice text for recordings -- Le Guin has transformed the genre in which she works countless times over. An intensely private figure like many of her characters, Le continues to create her fantastical worlds for all ages.

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    A True Classic of SciFi

    This novella is truly one of the original greats of the SciFi genre. The story is about human averice and power and the need for and lack of control thereof. It is also about doctor patient relationships though in a lesser way. It is also about one individual's struggle to control his life and in this case his dreams as they are what have the most profound impact on his daily existence.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    One of my favorites

    One of the great novels in Sci-Fi history along with her Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2003

    Editor's nightmare

    Lathe of Heaven starts fine, but goes downhill quickly with the introduction of aliens. This edition is full of typos and ridiculous editing errors: 'eye to I' ; 'geeting' for 'getting' ; 'double' for doubt' and on and on.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2014

    This book is an old friend I'm picking up in e format.  I read i

    This book is an old friend I'm picking up in e format.  I read it for the first time as a teenager & was priveleged to see the adaptation Ms. Le Guin did for PBS in the 1970s.  George Orr lives in a horrible world.  Overpopulation, war & damage to the Earth's ecosystem by an uncaring society has left  a society that is regimented to the extreme aas the only means of survival.  But George has a different problem; a terrible secret.  His dreams can change reality.lwhen he is caught using illegal drugs tto control his sleep, George, a quiet, modest Every an, is remaned to the care of Psychologist Dr. William Haber.  Haber initially sees George as delusional but cchanges his mind when he forces George to dream a chaned reality.  George is careful with his gift, but the egotistical & power-hungry Haber is a different story.  He attempts to control Geoge's dreams, leading to a power struggle between the two men for nothing less than control of reality itself.  But George knows something Haber doesn't.  There is a reason the dreams need to be used cautiously, & if Haber isn't careful, he will find  the too terrible reality behind George's dreams.

    Ursula LeGuin gives us a true Sci Fi/Horror story with characters you can relate to & for whom you feel sympathy.  Even Haber is no a villan, but just a man given a great power he can't handle.  The story is full of twists & turns, a tale mostly revolving around the characters of the two men, but with enough happening to satisfy devotees of more action oriented fiction.  Her prose style is clean & relatable, as always, & her universe, as seen through George's eyes, is realistic & sensible.  This is a unique novel written by an author who frequently thinks "outside the box", & I'm grateful to have a copy for my Nook.  Now, if they'd only publish "The Left Hand of Darkness" for e-reader ...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2013

    My favorite has always been the Left Hand Of Darkness but the La

    My favorite has always been the Left Hand Of Darkness but the Lathe of Heaven still haunts me twenty five or thirty years after I first read it.

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  • Posted March 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    One of the most thought-provoking works I've ever read. What if

    One of the most thought-provoking works I've ever read. What if when you had a certain kind of super-intense
    dream, what you dreamed came true? Only with that weird, twisted way dreams have of shifting reality, like
    dreaming that someone who annoyed you was killed in an accident. Then you woke up, and she was dead,
    had been dead, for years, and no one remembered the alternate reality. What if the person you went to for help
    decided to use that ability to reshape the world for the better?

    It's a short book, but rich, like a literary truffle. Something I reread on a regular basis, and think about more
    often than that.

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  • Posted June 11, 2011

    Really intriguing...

    Very good story and very intriguing ideas of how the world/society can be....Definitely leaves you wanting more...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    The Lathe of Hell

    This book was terrible! I would be more interested in pulling out my nails with pliers than to read this book again, forever or ever. Anyone who wants to read this book, hit yourself on the head first. Kids, don't do this at home!!

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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