Ursula's affinity with the Tao really shines through in this story. When everything about the world is changing constantly, how do we practice feeling at peace with it?

I've finally started on some of Ursula's most important novels that I hadn't read yet. Now that this one's finished, I plan to get to "The Left Hand of Darkness" and "The Dispossessed" from the Hainish cycle soon.

Dreams that change reality. And of course George Orr (Orwell?) gets exploited for it by his psychiatrist, Haber. Its premise is utopian, but every conscious effort to change the world takes dystopian turns.

Orr's perspective on his effective dreams is very much Taoist equanimous. He's pitted against the utilitarianism of Haber, culminating in the unraveling of Haber because of his exposure to the unreality.

"You speak as if that were some kind of general moral imperative." He looked at Orr with his genial, reflective smile, stroking his beard. "But in fact, isn't that man's very purpose on earth—to do things, change things, run things, make a better world?"


"What is his purpose, then?"

"I don't know. Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I don't know if our life has a purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass."

I also really enjoyed the way Ursula made us realize how reality had changed. The comprehensive rewriting of everyone's memories and history isn't something subtle—though at the same time, it is. Because no one will realize anything changed. Everything has always been like this, at least since last Friday.

"Do you remember anything about April, four years ago—in '98?"

"April? No, nothing special."

"That's when the world ended," Orr said. A muscular spasm disfigured his face, and he gulped as if for air. "Nobody else remembers," he said.

But now, never to have known a woman with brown skin, brown skin and wiry black hair cut very short so that the elegant line of the skull showed like the curve of a bronze vase—no, that was wrong. That was intolerable. That every soul on earth should have a body the color of a battleship: no!

That's why she's not here, he thought. She could not have been born gray. Her color, her color of brown, was an essential part of her, not an accident. Her anger, timidity, brashness, gentleness, all were elements of her mixed being, her mixed nature, dark and clear right through, like Baltic amber. She could not exist in the gray people's world. She had not been born.

He could not face his grief, his bereavement. Dream-grief. The loss of a woman who had never existed.

He flashlighted her back to the car. The creek shouted, the trees hung silent, the moon glowered overhead, the Aliens' moon.

Some poetic, Taoist-ish, stabs at meaning.

Are there really people without resentment, without hate, she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe?

Of course (his thoughts proceeded, also at a walking pace), if that's true, then the whole world as it now is should be on my side; because I dreamed a lot of it up, too. Well, after all, it is on my side. That is, I'm a part of it. Not separate from it. I walk on the ground and the ground's walked on by me, I breathe the air and change it, I am entirely interconnected with the world.

At dinner George watched her; she watched him a good bit, too. They had been married seven months. The said nothing of any importance. They washed up the dishes and went to bed. In bed, they made love. Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new. When it was made, they lay in each other's arms, holding love, asleep. In her sleep Heather heard the roaring of a creek full of the voices of unborn children singing.

This was not his wife, but a fiercer woman, vivid and difficult.

"That's right," he said. "Before The Break. We had... Actually, Miss Lelache, we had a date for lunch. At Dave's, on Ankeny. We never made it."

"I'm not Miss Lelache, that's my maiden name. I'm Mrs. Andrews." She eyed him with curiosity. He stood and endured reality.