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The Lathe of Heaven Ursula K. Le Guin Review by Melissa Reeser

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nd then I woke up,” is not an original ending to a story, but it is, perhaps, an interesting beginning. The borderlands of sleep and waking have long captivated the literary imagination, but have been especially appropriate terrain for science fiction, with its frequent attempts to imagine alternate worlds that comment on current realities. Ursula K Le Guin’s seminal 1971 work The Lathe of Heaven begins with a sluggish awakening, as everyman George Orr recovers from an overdose of pills intended to keep him from sleeping—or more to the point, dreaming. Orr has “effective” dreams: dreams that have the power to alter reality, changing it retroactively so as to reverse the course of history. It’s a power that terrifies Orr, and as he seeks desperately to cure himself of the gift, the reader pieces together a bleak image of waking life. Set in a then-futuristic 1998 city of Portland,

Oregon, the novel presents a teeming, diseaseravaged dystopia on the brink of environmental collapse. The city’s main river has become a concrete labyrinth of bridges and tunnels, while parking garages have been converted into office spaces following the collapse of the auto industry. Over all of this, a warm, perpetual rain drizzles. Lives are piled together in space-efficient apartments where children starve or suffer from protein deficiency. Dreaming would seem the last realm of escape from such a dismal cityscape, yet Orr would rather stay awake than inflict the consequences of his dreaming on the world. When he’s caught stealing more than his ration of pharmaceuticals in order to drug himself awake, the authorities sentence him to therapy with a low-rung dream specialist, one Dr. William Haber. Haber’s eyes glint with mad-scientist delight when he spies the potential boon in solving Orr’s problem. He

Profile for Propeller

Propeller 2.3  

Propeller: Volume 2, Issue 3

Propeller 2.3  

Propeller: Volume 2, Issue 3

Profile for propeller
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