The Lathe of Heaven – by Ursula K. Le Guin

The story is set in Portland, Oregon, in the year 2002. Portland has over three million inhabitants and the rain never stops. Most of the poor have kwashiorkor, a form protein deprivation. The culture is much the same as the 1970s in the United States but poverty reigns supreme. Wars rage in the Middle East, with Egypt and Israel allied against Iran. Global warming has wrought havoc upon the quality of life everywhere.

George Orr, has been using drugs to prevent himself from having “effective” dreams, which change reality. After having a dream, the dream is the new reality for everyone, but George retains memory of the previous reality. Under threat of being placed in an asylum, Orr is forced to undergo “voluntary” psychiatric care for his drug abuse.

George attends therapy sessions with a psychiatrist and sleep researcher named William Haber. Orr claims that he has the power to dream “effectively” and Haber, gradually starts to believe it. Seeking to use George’s power to change the world, he experiments with a biofeedback machine nicknamed the Augmentor. He hopes to enhance Orr’s abilities and produce a series of increasingly intolerable alternative worlds, based on an assortment of utopian (and dystopian) premises.

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