At first, readers may find Ursula K. Le Guin's collection Changing Planes
rather light, if not slight. However, as the reader continues through its sixteen stories (ten of which are original to this volume), the collection achieves considerable weight and power.
A punny conceit links the stories and provides the title of Changing Planes. Conceived before September 11, 2001, this conceit now, unfairly, looks odd. Trapped too many times in the misery of pre-terrorist airports, Sita Dulip discovered how to change planes: not airplanes, but planes of existence. Now the people of Sita's earth travel between alternate universes.
The stories in Changing Planes are strong expressions of Le Guin's considerable anthropological and psychological insight. However, these tales don't follow traditional plot structures or character-development methods. They read more like travelogues, or socio-anthropological articles on foreign nations or tribes. They explore exotic literary planes lying somewhere between Jorge Luis Borges's ficciones and Horace Miner's anthropological satire Body Ritual Among the Nacirema. However, unlike Miner's parody, Le Guin's wise tales are rarely satirical, though "The Royals of Hegn" sharply skewers the absurdity of royalty-worship, and "Great Joy" rightly attacks the boundless corporate criminality familiar to anyone who's read a newspaper since 2001.
One of America's greatest authors, Ursula K. Le Guin has received the National Book Award, the Newberry Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, five Nebula Awards, and five Hugo Awards. --Cynthia Ward
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From Publishers Weekly
When most people get stuck for hours in an airport, nothing much comes of it but boredom. When a writer like Le Guin (The Other Wind, etc.) has such an experience, however, the result may be a book of short stories. In "Sita Dulip's Method," a bored traveler, a friend of the narrator, discovers that if she sits on her uncomfortable airport chair in just the right way and thinks just the right thoughts, she can change planes-not airplanes, mind you, but planes of existence. Each of the linked stories that follows recounts a trip by the narrator or someone of her acquaintance to a different plane. "The Silence of the Asonu," for example, describes a world where the people speak only half a dozen words in any given year, and "The Ire of the Veksi" recounts a visit to a plane where virtually all the natives are angry virtually all of the time. The majority of these stories are allegorical to some degree. Most have a satiric edge, as in "Great Joy," for example which features an entire world devoted to the commercial side of various holidays, with lots of great shopping in quaint little towns like Nol City, O Little Town and Yuleville. Many of the tales echo, or take issue with, other works of fantastic fiction. Swift's Gulliver's Travels is clearly an influence, and one story, "Wake Island," can be seen as a re-examination of the basic premise of Nancy Kress's classic superman tale, "Beggars in Spain." This is a fairly minor effort, but like everything from Le Guin's pen, a delight. B&w illus. by Eric Beddows.
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