George Orr, an undistinguished draughtsman, believes that his dreams can change reality, in such a way that only he is aware of the change. Orr is an everyman figure, terrified of the power of his dreams, so he seeks to suppress them with drugs – leading him reluctantly into the influence of William Haber, a well meaning but ambitious psychiatrist. Far from helping Orr to stop the dreams Haber starts trying to experiment with them for what he believes is the common good. Orr hires a lawyer, Heather, to try to stop Haber’s experiments: there is an awesome moment while Orr is asleep in Haber’s laboratory, when Haber and Heather look out the window and see a terrible shift in reality taking place.
Exploring the nature of reality, dreams, power and morality, centred on ordinary characters with believable flaws, laced with paranoia and simultaneously celebrating and subverting sci-fi themes such as alien invasion, The Lathe of Heaven could arguably be described as one of Philip K. Dick’s finest novels. In fact it was written by Ursula K. Le Guin.