"Missing a flight, waiting in an airport, listening to garbled announcements - who doesn't hate that misery?" "But Sita Dulip from Cincinnati finds a method of bypassing the crowds at the desks, the long lines at the toilets, the nasty lunch, the whimpering children and punitive parents, the bookless bookstores, and the blue plastic chairs bolted to the floor." "A mere kind of twist and a slipping bend, easier to do than to describe, takes her not to Denver but to Strupsirts, a picturesque region of waterspouts and volcanoes, or to Djeyo where she can stay for two nights in a small hotel with a balcony overlooking the amber Sea of Somue. This new discovery - changing planes - enables Sita to visit bizarre societies and cultures that sometimes mirror our own and sometimes open doors into the alien."--BOOK JACKET.
Populated with odd types living their lives as they have always done, and interacting with the travelling tourist through the Interplanetary Travel Agency. Vaguely dark, cycnical tales, but not particularly thought provoking. Despite finishing the book only yesterday I can only really remember that bird people featured in a couple, and that there was a fantastic library planet which had had a dark history.
Easy reading, enjoyable, weird but ultimately nothing special. Good for travelling!
The point of the novel, in fact, seems to be rather thinly veiled commentary on modern society. Society in general is fun to comment on, and she gets fairly wild with some of the alternate worlds she introduces to us in this book. The tone remains throughout one of an anthropological, somewhat distant discussion and study of these fictional cultures. For those who enjoy this style of exploring cultures, this will be a delight. For those who find this style displeasing, I recommending picking up a book by a different author entirely.
As a whole, this is both an entertaining read, and a fun examination of how cultures work.
From the satirical tale of The Holiday Plane, where islands have been converted to cater for different holidays (such as Christmas with the villages of Noel, O Little Town etc), to the amusingly cynical (Hegn, where everyone is royalty apart from a small group of commoners), these stories and accounts are sometimes illuminating, disturbing, sad and peaceful all at the same time.
It is difficult to pick a favourite chapter out of this (each chapter tells of a different world), I have found the place I would most love to sit and read: The Library Gardens of Mahigul.
"In spring, during the mild steady rains, big awnings are stretched from one library arcade to the next, so that you can still sit outdoors, hearing the soft drumming on the canvas overhead, looking up from your reading to see the trees and the pale sky beyond the awning."
"In winter it's often foggy, not a cold fog but a mist through which and in which the sunlight is always warmly palpable, like the colour in a milk opal. The fog softens the sloping lawns and the high, dark trees, bringing them closer, into a quiet, mysterious intimacy."
I have the feeling I will read these stories again and again and again. The power they provide, the thought they provoke and the rush of emotions they produce are extraordinary. And all done in such a gentle way that you don't realise you're being touched until you take a breath at the end of each one.
I would highly recommend this. I never expected it to be as good as it is, and I am surprised I had never heard of it before.
4.5 out of 5
Each story is set in another world, and they do somehow have the air of travel writing about them. I enjoyed all of the stories here, but I would have liked to see some trips to more high-technology worlds - the majority of them were set in peaceful, less technologically developed planes, or worlds that have reverted after some kind of event turned them away from that sort of thing. Still, on the whole a very good read.
Reading Changing Places is like getting a series of letters from a traveling friend with newsy reports of her latest stops. But these are not your usual colorful locals and odd customs. The narrator meets people who are mostly human (and part plants and animals), entire populations who migrate north to breed and return south when their young are grown, people compelled to build stone structures that no one uses, people cursed with flight where flyers are considered deformed, and others—each more outlandish than the last.
The collection showcases LeGuin’s world-building talent. Sixteen stories each present a unique world with one or more species of cool, outrageous, thought provoking, or weird sentient beings. It’s good these various being we meet are interesting because not much actually happens in any of the stories. This gives the collection something of a contemplative mood, like a series of miniature studies in extraterrestrial sociology.
So, for LeGuin’s fans, this collection offers two things she does best: build worlds and examine their social structures. Few writers come up with so many and so varied new ways to imagine life. And few make it interesting enough you want to keep turning the pages to see what the next plane change will bring.
(One gets the feeling that LeGuin doesn't like modern travel much - and indeed, on her website it says that the author is currently taking a sabbatical from any kind of book tours or speaking engagements.)
Each section describes, from the visitor's perspective, a different 'plane' and the people who live there. The segments are a bit too brief and lacking in full development for me to consider then full 'stories' - but the writing is wonderful, and the book is just full of brilliantly insightful and amusing ideas. LeGuin apparently has many more flashes of creativity on a routine business trip than most authors do in a career. These are the ideas she hasn't fleshed out into full novels, but the book is still a rewarding experience - both funny and with many serious-yet-wry observations about our own world as well as potential alien ways of life.
Anyone can visit other planes of existence, but to make the transition you need to achieve a certain level of discomfort, boredom, and indigestion. On our plane of existence, this is only achieved when waiting in an airport between connecting flights--when you are, literally, between planes. The Interplanary Agency maintains a generally loose supervision of this travel, providing translation devices, guidebooks, and accommodations for longer stays. They'll take stronger measures in the event of real misbehavior by visitors or hosts. Without misbehavior, both wonders and quiet horrors are available to the adventurous traveler.