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 thoughts on “The Lathe of Heaven and The Silence in Heaven

  1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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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