The Lathe of Heaven and The Silence in Heaven

I read two books in two days. Yes, I’ve already fin­ished the books I picked up Sun­day at the library. Besides both hav­ing the word ‘heav­en’ in the title and both using the word ‘mil­que­toast’ in the expo­si­tion, they are very dif­fer­ent.

The Silence of Heav­en by Peter Lord-Wolff is a pret­ty decent first nov­el. The plot con­cerns itself with Fall­en Angels and a spe­cif­ic Fall­en Angel named Tashum who is try­ing to return to the Light of Heav­en. This take on the Fall is a new one for me and wel­come, some might take it as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the rebel­lion against God [or, in this book, the Voice] but those who see it this way are miss­ing the author’s inten­tion. [Yes, I set up a straw man to burn it down] Lord-Wolff gives an excel­lent con­struc­tion for exam­in­ing the spir­i­tu­al nature of human­i­ty by pro­ject­ing the same desires onto a being with more grace. It is a rather good exam­ple of what I think is meant by:

“All the same,” replied Syme patient­ly, “just at present you only see the tree by the light of the lamp. I won­der when you would ever see the lamp by the light of the tree.” -G.K. Chester­ton, The Man Who Was Thurs­day

The book also has a dif­fer­ent take on the sub­ject of vam­pires [I must admit I was dis­ap­point­ed when they showed up, I just want­ed a book about angels and fall­en angels]. In Lord-Wolff’s world vam­pires are cre­at­ed by drink­ing the blood of an angel. Which was inter­est­ing. As a whole the book was a promis­ing first effort for a new author. I hope that he matures in his fur­ther nov­els.

Ursu­la K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heav­en has final­ly secured her place among my favorite authors. The fact that she is the daugh­ter of my sec­ond favorite anthro­pol­o­gist Alfred Kroe­ber def­i­nite­ly car­ries through into her work. I’ve always thought of anthro­pol­o­gy as a sort of applied phi­los­o­phy, a phys­i­cal analy­sis of meta­phys­i­cal being. LeGuin seems to under­stand this and takes it a step fur­ther. Instead of doc­u­ment­ing and ana­lyz­ing, she also fills her work with impli­ca­tion. She thinks things through and has an eerie under­stand­ing of the blocks and wid­gets that form a cul­tur­al sys­tem. She can take one of these blocks, change it slight­ly and make very good refractive/reflective state­ments on our own belief sys­tems. She is a mas­ter at see­ing the lamp by the light of the tree.

The Lathe of Heav­en is a very com­pli­cat­ed book. The plot con­cerns itself with a man named George Orr who dreams ‘effec­tive­ly.’ That is, his dreams change real­i­ty. He is under the psy­chi­atric care of a Dr. Haber, who is using Orr to play God and attempt to cre­ate a utopia. This nov­el address­es prob­lems that are so com­plex I don’t real­ly know how to expli­cate them. It is very psy­cho­log­i­cal, it rais­es eth­i­cal dilem­mas, ques­tions the nature of real­i­ty, defines san­i­ty is a star­tling man­ner, and under­mines some of the inher­ent assump­tions that we West­ern­ers hold so dear. I read it cov­er to cov­er last night. Even if you don’t like spec­u­la­tive or sci­ence fic­tion you should read this book. The sci­ence-fic­tion is not heavy hand­ed. It was made into a movie back in 1980 and then again into a movie by A&E both of which I am going to have to track down. Read this book.

ADDENDUM: I for­got to men­tion that I attribute this sud­den jump back in to my usu­al read­ing habits to the fact that I now have a bed. I typ­i­cal­ly read ful­ly reclined on a couch or bed and now that I have the lat­ter I can read com­fort­ably.

4 Replies

  • shh! you’ll spoil it for every­one! but i agree with you. plus the fact that it takes place in Ore­gon [where LeGuin lives] has some­thing to do with your enjoy­ment of it…

  • Re: Lathe of Heav­en
    I espe­cial­ly like the Aliens he gen­er­ates in his dream­scape. One of them set up a shop under the bridge sell­ing antiques and a strange mix of won­der­ful things. Yoda like.… Yeah good book.

  • nev­er read Lathe of Heav­en, but do u know if Peter Lord-Wolff has a sequel to The Silence in Heav­en please let me know

  • I would also like to know of a sequel to The Silence in Heav­en. Not sure you’ll ever get this, but I liked the book so very much.

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