Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin

lathe: a machine for shaping a piece of material, such as wood or metal, by rotating it rapidly along its axis while pressing a fixed cutting or abrading tool against it.

The Lathe of Heaven is about dreams and dreaming, about playing God, and about getting by with a little help from my friends. It's about time travel in a one sense, but also about changes and how the past changes the future and how each person's actions change the both the past and the future. It's about the elusive nature of memory. And, of course, like all good books it's about LOST.

OK, not all good books relate to LOST, but The Lathe of Heaven appeared on my reading list because I saw it on a list of LOST-related books. And the relationship is both obvious and intriguing.

Benjamin Linus to John Locke: Let me put it so you'll understand. Picture a box. You know something about boxes, don't you John? What if I told you that, somewhere on this island, there is a very large box and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it when you opened that box, there it would be? What would you say about that, John?

One answer that Locke could have given to Ben's question is that one should be very careful about one imagines into such a (metaphorical) box. In The Lathe of Heaven, the protagonist, George, has "effective dreams," dreams that alter the future by also altering the past and making it as if it had always been on the trajectory that the dream imaged. The characters also change history by imagining or dreaming. As they travel in time their actions change was has been, or what will be, maybe, and make it as if it had always been the way it is. The problem in The Lathe of Heaven is that George has no control over his dreams; the dreams change things in sometimes good, sometimes horribly immoral and detrimental ways.

Read more at Semicolon.


  1. Yea! Another LOST review! This book sounds completely confusing though ... hmm, a lot like LOST. :)

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