Reviews of Changing Planes (2003)
Review by spiphany (2004-07-11)
These stories are what Le Guin does best: visits to strange lands which tell us something about our own world, whether it’s the strangely beautiful and yet chilling world of Islac, where genetic engineering has gotten out of control, or Hegn, where the entire population are royals, and the single family of commoners are treasured the way we treasure our royals, or explorations of consciousness and community in a world on which all dreams are shared. The collection reminds me at times of Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”; although Le Guin’s book is a commentary on contemporary culture in a way that Calvino’s is not. Fortunately, she manages to avoid preaching, or when she does preach, it’s in such a gentle, pleasant manner that it doesn’t detract from the stories. “Changing Planes” also pokes fun at the genre of science fiction travelogues. It’s difficult not to think that her Encyclopedia Planaria, the definitive guide to the planes mentioned so often in the book, is in some way intended to invoke Douglass Adams’ well-known “Hitchhiker’s Guide”.
This is a light, fun read, although certainly not Le Guin’s best work, but suitable, as the title suggests, for airport reading.