Changing Planes

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Hardcover, 2004



Call number



Orion Pub Co (2004), Hardcover


"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.… (more)

Media reviews

Washington Post
Perhaps as a result, the book is marred in parts by signs of haste, bits of undigested spleen and even some uncharacteristic patches of cliché. ... Luckily, there is much in Changing Planes to make up for such lapses. Le Guin's intellectual fertility remains unmatched. Nearly every interplanary destination is a fully realized world, complete with language, nomenclature, landscape and social organization. And then, every so often, one comes across the ultimate seduction, a trademark Le Guin passage, perfect in every phrase and cadence, such as this description of the tenuous, cloudy plane of Zuehe ...

User reviews

LibraryThing member reading_fox
8 odd short and light tales. Le Guin I feel doesn't like flying, particularly not the hassle involved with airports and making connections, and in this ever pressured environment who can blame her. These are tales of differen planes - places that can be reached when the desperation and indegestion of the airport gets sufficently burdensome that anywhere else is better. Anywhere being the key point.

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!
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LibraryThing member inkstained
This is a light read, but a good one. I highly recommend it for while traveling. Le Guin's writing here is consistent with what would be expected, but the darker themes she usually employs aren't as prominent in this novel. Indeed, the novel itself is hard to classify as such since it reads much more like a collection of short stories strung together by a narrator whose story doesn't seem to really be the point of the novel.

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.
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LibraryThing member razjnev
A great collection of short stories describing the narrator's visits to alternate realities (planes) while stuck in airports waiting to A triumph of the freedom of the mind even though the body may be bound to our own humble plane. These are individual stories, but they are bound together by this common theme, and it could be viewed as a fantasy travel book, a collection of sociological studies, or a biting satire on parts of our own culture.… (more)
LibraryThing member SimoneA
An enjoyable collection of stories, revolving around the principle that one can change between different worlds (planes) at airports. Several worlds are introduced, written about as if they are travel reports. Some of the stories were quite impressive, others not so interesting, partly because of the 'academic' writing style. Changing planes is a nice in-between book (for travelling by airplane).… (more)
LibraryThing member avogl
Ursula Le Guin is the queen of short stories. I am amazed how she created whole worlds/planes in such a short story. Complete with culture, traditions, language, these planes came to life in this book. It is an interesting concept of being able to travel to other planes as you wait in the airport between planes. Love the play on words. The plane where you have communal dreams was probably my favorite. But also the one where only a few citizens grew wings and could fly and that was a curse. The plane where you could never learn their language because it seemed to disappear as the citizens grew older. The plane that tried to charge for travel. A plane with two warring nations and the one squeezed out starting building a huge building for the other nation. These stories are great.… (more)
LibraryThing member lunacat
When someone discovers how to 'change planes' while waiting in an airport for a flight, a whole universe of possibilities is opened up. This tells the experiences of some of the planechangers, the planes (or planets) they visit and the societies and cultures they find.

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
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LibraryThing member deckla
Is there any greater master of speculative fiction than Ursula K. Le Guin? Here she uses the maddening experience of changing planes (read: sitting in airports post 9-11) as a perfect time to change planes (read: alternate levels of existence). Like an anthropologist in the field, she gives short reports on imagined societies that are so advanced as to be post-language and so primitive as to extend the Christmas shopping season year round and to stage battles with preordained outcomes. There are angel-like creatures with wings and devil-like creatures with hooves. Builders and birds, queens, placid people and immortal souls, and places like libraries and gardens and hotels and grog shops and streets that change direction as you traverse them--all are conjured in Le Guin's clear, unreliable, contradictory, inspirational, satirical voice. Whisper in my ear anytime at all, o great Le Guin!… (more)
LibraryThing member nmele
This book has been on my to-read list since it first was published, and why it took me so long to find a copy and read, I don't know. I quite enjoyed the underlying conceit, a play on the words of the title, but I enjoyed more the narrator's descriptions and adventures in a variety of planes. Le Guin manages to pack a lot of entertainment and some deep critiques into the short stories that make up this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member eduscapes
Interesting look at other worlds.
LibraryThing member tronella
After all those crime books, I thought it was about time for some fantasy! This is a collection of short stories set in parallel planes of existence (yes, the title is some sort of pun). The introduction says that a method for travelling to other worlds was discovered, but it only works if you're in an airport. So when people are stuck waiting for a delayed plane or missed transfer, they can go travelling for a while and not miss much time here.

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.
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LibraryThing member pennyshima
Several years ago while my husband experienced a frustrating flight for a business trip, I acquired travel reading at a local bookstore. The stories in this collection are all different yet tied together through travel, uncovering history and custom, and commentary. Each story is self-contained enough in that the book can be set aside for years when other covers distract the reader. A few stories required a little more thought to follow than I could handle at bedtime (when I tend to read short stories), but I do not begrudge them. Le Guin has built planes I long to visit.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheDivineOomba
I love this book - its a collection of short stories written almost as an allegory or fable feel to them, each story is about a different plane, and that you can only get to these plains by waiting at airport terminals.
LibraryThing member bordercollie
"Confusions of Uni" was my favorite story in this collection about visits to other planes. They are accessed from the blue plastic chairs bolted to the floors of airport terminals, and a two-day trip takes only minutes in our time.
LibraryThing member WildMaggie
The framing device for these connected short stories from sci-fi/fantasy legend Ursula Leguin is that bored air travelers can slip out of airport lounges into alternative worlds or planes. So, while travelers are waiting to change planes, they can take little side trips by changing planes. The collection is one traveler’s accounts of her visits to alternative planes.

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.
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LibraryThing member deliriumslibrarian
Wicked satire of American consumer and political culture. Le Guin at her humane best - a great read for the stress of air travel!
LibraryThing member raschneid
A fun mixture of satire and worldbuilding. Very Gulliver's Travels, really, except with a likable narrator!
LibraryThing member amaraduende
Short stories - some more like little snapshots, really - set in different planes or dimensions... some from a traveler from our plane's point of view.
LibraryThing member eldang
This was a fun book. The premise really was just "How far can I run with a pun on changing airplanes vs astral planes?", but that served as a nice springboard for a series of vignettes of alternate worlds. Some were clearly commentary on this plane, others just seemed like an exploration of a little idea, and the whole book is breezily written - light reading that's worth taking time over.… (more)
LibraryThing member thioviolight
This is my first book by Ursula K. Le Guin, and I'm very pleased at this introduction. I'd found this in a bargain stack, so it's double the luck! Changing Planes is a collection of interconnected stories about interplanary travel. It is quite a fascinating concept, and sounds wonderful to experience! The planes and people in these pieces may be very different or similar to ours, but each has something to say about humans and our society. A witty and clever observation!… (more)
LibraryThing member iansales
There’s a cunning pun in that title there. It goes like this: a person waiting one day in an airport to catch a connecting flight accidentally discovered a way to visiting other worlds, or, as Le Guin has it in this collection, other planes. Get it? Aeroplanes and alternate universes/planes. And hence this collection of, well, fables, all based on other planes visited by a narrator from Earth. I am not a big fan, I must admit, of fables, though I am certainly a fan of Le Guin’s fiction. So while I can appreciate the art and cleverness with which Changing Planes is put together, I didn’t much enjoy the stories. Meh.… (more)
LibraryThing member AltheaAnn
A collection of stories/vignettes connected by an amusing premise: while caught in the unique state of boredom experienced only by the traveller stuck with a layover at an airport, a person can quite literally "change planes" and visit other realms of existence.
(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.
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LibraryThing member jobbi
A neat and amusing collection of fantasy short stories. Quite light, but enjoyable nonetheless.
LibraryThing member waldhaus1
Starting with some cutting observations about airplane travel it moves on to the fantasy of spending time in alternate universe while waiting on airplane connections. The alternate universes are all highly imaginative echoing the ability she displayed on her other work.
LibraryThing member LisCarey
This is a slender and charming travelogue of places that don't exist. The stories that make it up were published over the last five years in a variety of places, with the exception of the introductory story. "Sita Dulip's Method" sets up a frame for the whole.

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.

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LibraryThing member Brainannex
The first story was the best one, a wonderful little thought experiment. The rest of the stories are like little anthropological sketches and have moments of great writing but short stories aren't my favorite form.



Original publication date

2003-07 (Collection)

Physical description

224 p.; 7.87 inches


0575075643 / 9780575075641
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