The Lathe of Heaven

The Lathe of Heaven

by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Lathe of Heaven

The Lathe of Heaven

by Ursula K. Le Guin


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The Locus Award-winning science fiction novel by legendary author Ursula K. Le Guin, set in a world where one man’s dreams rewrite the future.

During a time racked by war and environmental catastrophe, George Orr discovers his dreams alter reality. George is compelled to receive treatment from Dr. William Haber, an ambitious sleep psychiatrist who quickly grasps the immense power George holds. After becoming adept at manipulating George’s dreams to reshape the world, Haber seeks the same power for himself. George—with some surprising help—must resist Haber’s attempts, which threaten to destroy reality itself.

A classic of the science fiction genre, The Lathe of Heaven is prescient in its exploration of the moral risks when overwhelming power is coupled with techno-utopianism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416556961
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 04/15/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 118,556
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018) was the celebrated author of twenty-three novels, twelve volumes of short stories, eleven volumes of poetry, thirteen children’s books, five essay collections, and four works of translation. Her acclaimed books received the Hugo, Nebula, Endeavor, Locus, Otherwise, Theodore Sturgeon, PEN/Malamud, and National Book Awards; a Newbery Honor; and the Pushcart and Janet Heidinger Kafka Prizes, among others. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2016 joined the short list of authors to be published in their lifetimes by the Library of America. Le Guin was also the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret A. Edwards Award. She received lifetime achievement awards from the World Fantasy Convention, Los Angeles Times, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Willamette Writers, as well as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award and the Library of Congress Living Legend Award. Her website is


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

October 21, 1929

Place of Birth:

Berkeley, California


B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952

Read an Excerpt

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 moveagain; 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?"


"High on something?"


"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?"


"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.

Reading Group Guide


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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