Review: The Lathe of Heaven

The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin

The Lathe of Heaven is a standalone science fiction story by the same author that wrote the Earthsea series.  The writing style seemed so different to me that it felt like it was written by a different author.  The premise was great, the ideas and questions were thought-provoking, and the execution was… well, I don’t know.  It never really grabbed me.  I would get interested for a short period of time, then my attention would wander and I’d have to put the book down to do something else.
The book is about a character who can literally change the world with his dreams.  Occasionally, he has a dream that is particularly vivid and powerful and, when he wakes up, he has two sets of memories: the memory of what existed before his dream, and the memories of a past that he never lived through.  The rest of humanity only remembers the new set of memories.  What would happen if this power could be harnessed?  Could you get rid of famine, plague, racism, and war?  Would it be moral to do so?  What would the consequences be?

I really liked the premise, and the story was interesting.  I liked the main character pretty well, although his passivity annoyed me at times.  The other main character in the story annoyed me to no end, as intended I think, with his arrogance and his inability to see beyond his own narrow perspective.  And his incessant monologues.  I think those monologues were one reason why I kept losing interest in the book.

This is one of those books that doesn’t give you all the answers, ever.  There are unreliable characters interpreting what’s happening, so you’re never quite sure if what they say is accurate, mistaken, or an intentional deception.  The ending is also pretty fuzzy in terms of how (or if) anything was resolved.