The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

While I haven’t particularly been a fan of any of the Le Guin short stories I’ve read, I certainly enjoyed this short novel. Briefly, the novel follows a man who’s dreams can effect reality and the state-appointed psychiatrist who quickly learns the truth of the man’s powers and seeks to harness it to do good. I came to it by way of Electric Literature’s excellent list of “17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting” -check out the other offerings there, too.

The conceit of the story, its structure, and the development of its characters are fantastic in their own right and would make the book worth reading on their merits alone, so I’ll not spend much time on the particulars, so as to leave the reader that specific pleasure unsullied. The prose is fantastic -never especially pyrotechnic or experimental, but always good, mostly out of the way. Simple, but specific, always in service of the work itself, not the sentences for their own sake. Especially flashy writing would seem out of place, but everything in here works wonderfully together.

I had avoided reading any of Le Guin’s books before, based on the two or three stories of hers I’d read in anthologies. I guess this further demonstrates the truth of a little knowledge being sometimes a worse thing than its absence. Don’t trust your own opinions of authors -especially if those opinions haven’t been confirmed by an honest and open read of examples of their work that haven’t been “Norton-ized”.

Recommendation: Read it, then check out some other short novels on this list:


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