I finally finished working my way through Ursula LeGuin’s Changing Planes. The premise is good–airports aren’t just places you go to change airplanes, but they provide the perfect atmospheric elements to actually change physical planes as well. And there are lots of planes to choose from, there is even a guide book. But as much as I like LeGuin and as much as I wanted to like this book, I found it mediocre at best. There are a few pieces in the book that I thought were excellent, like “Porridge on Islac.” On this plane they have fiddled with genetic science so much that there are hardly any 100% humans left. Everyone has been crossed with the genes from other things like corn or peacocks. And food that has not been genetically altered is also hard to come by. The society is still viable, but they suffer from the consequences of their science.
“Seasons of the Ansarac” was also a good one. It’s about a society where everyone migrates from the city to the country and back again and is almost a uptopian story. “The Building” is pleasantly creepy and “The Fliers of Gy” is a sad tale. There might be a few other good ones in there, but those are the ones I liked the best.
I began this book several months ago. Why did it take me so long to read? I found that I could only stand reading one or two stories at a sitting and then could only read the book once every week or two. What bothered me most about the book was the tone. Most of the pieces are written from a mock objective scientific observer point of view that felt wrong. Sometimes I felt like these were anthropological studies without any of the text book statistics.
If you are a LeGuin fan you will likely find some redeeming qualities in the book. If you are not a fan, then don’t bother, you’ll only be wasting your time.