Monday, February 22, 2010

A Decent Dose of Science Fiction


When I went to the dentist last week, I came prepared with some reading material to spare myself the agony of poking amongst the crossword-completed, outdated magazines and childrens' books with torn pages I knew would be on offer.

Reading material of choice: Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't read LeGuin until now. I've been meaning to for so long - unsurprising - given my penchant for science fiction, and LeGuin's reputation. I'm glad I got my act together.

The Lathe of Heaven centres on George Orr, a man whose dreams affect reality. Sadly, he is the only one who remembers the reality previous to his dream. He attempts to prevent this rewriting of history through self-treatment and medication, but eventually authorities are alerted to the extremes Orr is pursuing to avoid REM sleep. The novel follows the relationship and immeasurable consequences resulting from Orr's imposed psychiatric treatment.

Loved:
  • The not-too-distant future in which the book is set;
  • The characters;
  • How quickly the story moved;
  • The themes and questions raised; and
  • The length. I only got a chapter in at the dentist, but finished the rest in two evenings.
Downers:
  • In SF, telepathy / aliens / flying cars / laser guns are prone to crop up. This novel has one of these, and I didn't like it. Well, I forgave it, but the particular treatment the subject was given is one of my pet peeves. (Like how I didn't spoil it?)
  • There are a few unsavoury word choices. By "few", I mean few - not "a few a chapter", but throughout the book.
If you don't like Science Fiction, you probably won't like this book. But if you do, I found this to be Philip K. Dick meets Orson Scott Card. I read the first chapter of one of LeGuin's fantasy novels, and didn't like the taste - too many characters and too many neologisms. This text seemed to be from a different author. And she deserved another chance - the woman has won more Hugo and Nebula awards than she has fingers.

Anyone read The Farthest Shore? I'm interested to know what you think of it.
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