Posts Tagged ‘Eye in the Sky’

Ursula Le Guin: The Lathe of Heaven

March 5, 2021

     Seriously, if you know your science fiction, and had read this book anonymously (without knowing the author) you’d be very surprised to learn it wasn’t by Philip K Dick, so close does Ursula Le Guin come to his style and his manner of exploring the workings of the human mind and the nature of reality… picking the book up again after some 45 years (!) I was taken aback.

She begins in medias res, dropping us into a future USA where we easily accept all the assumptions she has made; it was also interesting to note that in a novel first published almost 50 years ago, she vectors in the effects of the greenhouse effect and global warming on her part of that country.

It’s the story of a man who realises that his dreams can change the nature of reality. He’s not happy about this, and the psychiatrist and sleep researcher to whom he’s assigned for help quickly realises how this can be exploited… once he’s got over the shock of realising that changes do happen after George Orr has been dreaming. The shrink is basically a good man, with the best of intentions for people and planet, but: is what he’s doing ethical? Are the decisions he makes when influencing Orr’s dreams the right ones? The best laid plans are capable of going awry, and do.

Le Guin creates convincing characters – which Dick doesn’t always do – the states of consciousness are effectively portrayed, and the moral dilemmas and personal consciences of the characters are thoughtfully explored. I found myself at times reminded particularly of Dick’s Eye in the Sky, although altered states of consciousness and the individual’s ability to influence reality are pretty general tropes in his writing.

Le Guin’s interest in Eastern philosophy was woven thoughtfully into her novel, and her concerns for the future of the species, and realisation that there can be no magical short-cuts to utopia, which will be explored at much greater length in the Hainish novels and stories, are already emerging here. This was a novel which I’d stuck in the non-Hainish box as only marginally interesting, one to re-read before I passed it on to a charity shop; I was most surprised by this second encounter.

Philip K Dick: Eye in the Sky

January 24, 2014

Another exploration of the weird nature of reality in this novel from Dick’s early days; eight people are injured in an accident at an experimental physics plant (it really reminded me of what I’ve read about CERN and the large hadron collider) and find themselves trapped in a world inside the mind of one of the group… but whose?

When I think about my mind and what goes on inside it, I do often wonder if it’s in any way like anyone else’s; take this thought a couple of steps further and you could imagine that everything existed in your mind only, and was a figment of your imagination, as it were. What if you actually had power – conscious or unconscious – over that world and the things and people in it: what sort of world would it be like? would other people enjoy being in it or would you create a hell for them? How dark is your personality and how weird are your dreams, especially if you inflicted them on others?

Suffice it to say that the characters spend time in several different people’s worlds, each of them very strange, and this perhaps warns us that ‘our’ world would be just as weird.

Apart from this conceit, which is interestingly explored, the novel doesn’t really get anywhere: the ideas are provocative and scary, though.

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