“ have a dream.” A famous speech by the Martin Luthor King, Jr. But George Orr has dreams too. And his can, literally, in a wink, change the world.
You see, when George hits deep sleep and dreams, his “effective” dreams change reality. And let’s face it, reality in the 2002 (of this 1971 novel) is pretty sucky. Global warming. Overpopulation. A middle-eastern war spreading out of control (it’s not far off, so it seems). But then George, under the guidance of his government-assigned therapist, Dr Haber, begin to change things “for the better”.
In little tests, George can change a picture on the wall (and Haber, apparently in close proximity, can see it happen and witness the change). They give a nudge to the weather. But then, with his lawyer Heather Lelache in attendance, they go for the big one – overpopulation. And Haber and Lelache watch in horrored fascination as the Portland they know changes outside, the huge concrete towers vanishing, the suburbs receding, and thus they remember the plague that wiped out nearly 90% of the worlds population two decades before.
Perhaps this would have worked well. At Haber’s control, the world is getting better, the effects of global warming mitigated, the population more comfortable, less famished. Yet George cannot wonder what instructions Haber is given him, for each new version of the doctor has a bigger office, a grander title, more power. George begins to wonder how he can stop this power-hungry shrink, a man who controls his hypnotic sessions and his sleep patterns, and those dangerous “effective” dreams.
I gotta say I really liked this book. Ursula K. LeGuin was all over global warming and overpopulation while we were all sleeping in our own suburban dreams. And she nails it. And there is no dream, it seems, that will save us. It was a good read and I found myself hanging on the last few pages as it wrapped up, just to see how it could come out.
My rating: forty winks out of forty. If you see it in the used bookshop, pick up a copy.