It is almost this month's book club, which reminds me that I never wrote up last
month's book club book, Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven
. The Lathe of Heaven
is one of those deceptively short, simple LeGuins that takes a premise and just steadily and relentlessly works its way through it.
In this case, the premise is that when hapless little George Orr goes into REM sleep, his dreams accidentally change the world.
Nobody knows about or remembers any of the previous iterations of reality but George, and George is EXTREMELY STRESSED about all of this. So stressed that the mild dystopia in which he lives eventually mandates that he go to therapy -- where his therapist Dr. Haber becomes the second person to learn about George's abilities, and has the bright idea of combining hypnosis with sleep manipulation to create a perfect (for Dr. Haber) society!
Dr. Haber has probably not read The Monkey's Paw
or any of the other various helpful fables about being careful what you wish for, but even if he had read them, he probably wouldn't think they applied to him anwyway.
What follows is an increasingly weird series of dystopias, as George fumbles through an effort to take some sort of responsibility for his unwanted powers by attempting to convince Dr. Haber that he should not
be taking responsibility for the whole world, while, around them, any kind of definitive sense of 'reality' starts to fold inward on itself like the end of an Ikuhara series.
The book has three characters -- George, Dr. Haber, and Heather Lalache, George's lawyer and love interest, who in the first half of the book seems like she is going to be a force on the order of the first two and in the second half of the book functions almost entirely as a metaphorical symbol for Why A World In Which Race Does Not Exist Is A Dystopia. (Heather is mixed-race.) This is probably my biggest frustration with the book and the reason I do not wholeheartedly love it, but is also something that I do not think would have happened were this not one of LeGuin's first novels, and written in 1971.
There have been a couple of TV movies made of this book and I haven't seen any of them, but the more I think about it, the more I would love to see a really surreally animated version.