The stories of George Orr, his lawyer/wife Heather and his psychologist William Haber. George suffers from “effective” dreams – dreams that affect reality and change it retroactively and he is the only person aware of the change. Each effective dream leaves George with two sets of overlapping memories, one for the original timeline before the dream and a new set of memories due the to changes brought about by the dream itself. To prevent this, George abuses drugs in an effort to avoid dream filled sleep, but the story opens with him being caught and sentenced to “voluntary therapy” with Dr Haber. Early on in their dream therapy sessions Haber witnesses the power of George’s effective dreaming and because he is at the epicenter of the dream and directing them himself he is also aware of their changes. Haber attempts to control George’s dreams through hypnotism and a device known as the Augmentor. He attempts to correct the worlds problems by directing the dreams, but each time unforeseen consequence results. Haber also rewrites his own personal history with each dream, becoming a more powerful individual each time. Eventually Haber, through the use of the Augmentor, attempts to effectively dream himself and nearly destroys reality completely. George prevents this, but not before Haber is mentally lost.
Written in the 70’s and cast in 2002, this book offers several alternate views of the future, all based on George’s dreams, and all centered around Portland, Oregon. In fact the world was all but destroyed by nuclear holocaust in 1998 had it not been for George willing it back into existence. So the novel starts us off already in an alternate timeline.
Haber is not a bad man, despite his gathering authority. He believes what he is doing is for the greater good. He stops famine, but the consequence is the elimination of 6 billion people via a plague. He achieves peace on Earth, but only because humanity united against a common alien foe. He gets rid of the alien scourge on the moon, only to have them come down to invade Earth. Each time it seems like the author is telling us that a utopia is an impossible ideal. I liked this book because there is no clear bad guy, life is not black and white but only shades of gray and reality is far more malleable than you think.
(Amazon) The Lathe of Heaven