Marin's Reviews > Changing Planes

Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Feb 11, 2009

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Read in January, 2009

This is a science fiction book which contemplates the possibility of traveling to other worlds through the standard American airport. The book is a collection of descriptions of a few of these worlds. Each chapter describes a different world, with an emphasis on the particular aspect that makes the people on that world interesting or different. On one world, for example, the population is composed entirely of royalty, all of whom obsess over the activities of the single family of "commoners." On another world, certain individuals at puberty will grow enormous wings and gain the ability to fly. On another world, everyone dreams the same dreams as the people sleeping around them. By describing these worlds, Le Guin makes veiled (sometimes very thinly veiled) social and political commentary.

I've found that different readers of science fiction are attracted to the genre for very different reasons. Ursula Le Guin appeals more to those who like science fiction for its ability to isolate and amplify human characteristics (rather than for its nifty futuristic gadgets or space frontier action). I am one of these readers, but I prefer the author's commentary to be couched in a story. Changing Planes had a lot of cool stuff in it, but it was little more than a hodge-podge of cool ideas. I couldn't help feeling like the author had just stacked up all of her unfinished ideas for the settings for her novels and sent them to the publisher.

I might have just started with the wrong Le Guin. This book did tell me that here is an extremely smart author with a lot to say and the talent to say it well.
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