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Changing Planes: Armchair Travel for the Mind (GOLLANCZ S.F.)

Changing Planes: Armchair Travel for the Mind (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Kindle Edition]

Ursula K. Le Guin
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Book Description

A satirical, at times hilarious spoof on air travel by one of the world's most elegant writers

Product Description

ARMCHAIR TRAVEL FOR THE MIND:It was Sita Dulip who discovered, whilst stuck in an airport, unable to get anywhere, how to change planes - literally. With a kind of a twist and a slipping bend, easier to do than describe, she could go anywhere - be anywher

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 318 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (9 Sep 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0043M679Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #64,003 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Ursula Le Guin has won many awards, including a National Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Newbery Honor and the World Fantasy Award For Life Achievement.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant wisdom in LeGuin's latest 14 July 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
LeGuin's best book for years- and that's saying something! Very Borges-like in feel, but still characteristically Le Guin. Her usual crystalline text (I wish I could write like this!) leads one gently to worlds of of distorted reality, wisdom and ambiguity. Satire, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, social commentary and philiosophy mix in these elegant shards of transfigured reality. Now all I have to do is find how to get there from Heathrow...
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5.0 out of 5 stars very happy 29 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a Le Guin enthusiast so love all her books. The wonderful line-drawings in this one make it extra special.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Are you a frequent flyer? 23 Feb 2012
By Lanic
I'm buying and reading ALL books by Ursula Le Guin. This one is a collection of wonderful short stories, I tried to find it for years and I'm so happy to have found it! It's specially perfect to read in airports, while waiting for your delayed flight.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Way to beat Airport Blues 28 April 2005
Amongst the most unpleasant places on the planet must be airport departure lounges (especially American ones according to my parents...).
In this collection, Ursula Le Guin has produced a number of stories about places that could be reached from the departure lounges of the world's airports. Ms Le Guin has employed her undoubted skills in creating new worlds in order to form the backgrounds to these worlds. Unfortunately, many of the more pleasant worlds are crypto Anarchical in nature, while the ones that are unpleasant are often either capitalist or formerly capitalist. This has been a long term twitch of Ms Le Guin's for virtually the last forty years. Also, a number of stories seem to be rather too obvious pastiches on current societies and/or events.
Of course, the title is a rather obvious play on waiting for another plane and swapping between the alternative planetary planes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for some fun at the airport? Read this book! 19 July 2003
By Bookreporter - Published on
Ursula Le Guin is funny. I mean, she has a deep, cosmic sense of humor --- a good thing for a writer of speculative fiction. Her new book, CHANGING PLANES, has a near-universal complaint for a premise (the tedium of waiting in airports for delayed/canceled flights) and a play on words for the title (instead of changing to flying machines bound for Memphis or Boise, people transport themselves to different planes of existence). The key to "interplanary travel," the anonymous narrator explains, is the very awfulness of the airport experience: "a specific combination of tense misery, indigestion, and boredom." You might call CHANGING PLANES the ultimate in escape reading.
After this clever set-up, the book becomes a sort of glorified travelogue. Granted, the civilizations on the various planes aren't real --- but they could be, and Le Guin's gift for inventing plausible and detailed alternative societies is as brilliant as ever. In the tradition of her eminent anthropologist parents, she creates a succession of strange lands and customs that overturn our assumptions about what is standard, settled, and normal. It's cultural relativism as you've never seen it before: witty, sophisticated, and gloriously human.
"The Silence of the Asonu" shows us a civilization in which adults don't speak. In "The Nna Mmoy Language," words have ever-shifting meanings ("Learning Nna Mmoy is like learning to weave water," a puzzled outsider says) and "Feeling at Home With the Hennebet" challenges our notion of identity and the individual soul. Often the stories are vehicles for social criticism and satire: rampant consumerism ("Great Joy"), genetic engineering gone nuts ("Porridge on Islac"), pointless wars ("The Ire of the Veksi"; "Woeful Tales from Mahigul"), and celebrity worship ("The Royals of Hegn"), to name a few. Some are surreal ("Confusions of Uñi"), while others are quietly mysterious, such as "The Building," in which a "primitive" people builds an enormous, uninhabited, apparently purposeless palace of green stone, or "The Fliers of Gy," one of Le Guin's most moving stories, which imagines a race in which a few people in every generation grow wings. Are they handicapped or godlike? The parallels to our own fear of (and yearning for) flying, risk and death are inescapable and poignant.
A strong theme in several of the stories is a mistaken idea of progress, an attempt to "fix" social systems that aren't broken. "Seasons of the Ansarac," my favorite of the collection, shows us a migratory culture in which the people, gripped by a powerful sexual drive, trek periodically from the south (seat of cities and cultural institutions, where they live in random, close-packed groups and talk all night, but never make love) to the rural north, where they have sex and procreate and cleave to their families. When the Beidr --- an aggressive, technologically advanced civilization --- sets out to save them from hormonal enslavement . . . well, you can guess the rest. The upshot is that the Ansarac no longer allow visitors to their plane; it is closed off to humans in the time-honored tradition of lost paradises (from Dante to Shangri-La), and the story ends on a note of profound longing.
"Seasons of the Ansarac" is up to Le Guin's finest work (THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, THE EARTHSEA TRILOGY, and more), but I can't say the same for all of the tales in CHANGING PLANES. It's true that they are vastly intelligent and adroit, often written in a style that combines the detached, slightly stuffy observations of a scientist in the field with an attractive fable-like cadence (they'd be great read aloud). Many of them, however, seemed slight --- sketches rather than the real, completed thing. After a while I began thinking of them as fictionalized essays rather than stories. (Nor did I appreciate the line drawings by Eric Beddows. This is not a criticism of the artist; I simply think it is more fruitful for the reader to create his or her own inner vision of a character or setting --- including alien species --- than to be confronted with somebody else's version.)
I don't mean to carp, though; I'd rather read Le Guin in any form than most writers working today. That's why I picked up CHANGING PLANES while sitting in JFK last month, waiting for a flight to France. I couldn't help laughing at the irony. I'd rather have passed the time in interplanar travel, of course, but this book was the next best thing. Try it if you're shackled to a plastic airport chair or stalled on a runway and you're looking for provocative, intelligent diversion (it's small enough to fit in the seat pocket). Or read it if you have no intention of going anywhere, but are in the mood for mental adventure. You'll return home with new eyes.
--- Reviewed by Kathy Weissman
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulliver's New Travels 25 Sep 2003
By Louis N. Gruber - Published on
Waiting in airports can be interminable tedium, OR, a passage to other planes of existence, fascinating new worlds. In fact there is a whole world of such worlds, linked by a loose-knit Interplanary Agency, with Interplanary Hotels for travelers, and Rornan's Handy Planary Guide for guidance. Such is the premise for this collection of fantastic allegorical stories.
Strange stories they are, too, stories of people just a little different from ourselves, people whose foibles and fallacies are just a little different from our own. Stories of people wracked by pointless ethnic conflicts that go on for centuries; people who have ruined their worlds and destroyed their ecologies; worlds in which ancient cultures and traditions are fading away. There is a quality of wistful longing in these stories, longing for a simpler, saner world that has been lost or ruined. LeGuin's beautiful writing is complemented by the inventive, Escher-like drawings of Eric Beddows.
Author Ursula K. LeGuin is a master story-teller. These stories are easy to read, compelling, humorous, engaging, and hard to forget. They will get you to thinking and they will haunt you. I recommend this book highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice read: Ursula Le Guin in an unexpected mood! 21 Jun 2003
By David Rasquinha - Published on
Who among us has not experienced the misery of long waits at airports, trapped in a slow-moving time-warp between flights? Le Guin starts this quaint book with a horribly accurate word picture of what such a wait can be before segueing into a neat fantasy. Imagine if, just as we change airplanes on connecting flights, we could switch between different planes of existence (the pun is entirely intentional!) and discover alternate worlds? Sit back then for an enchanting ride as Le Guin lets her imagination create 16 wondrous alternate worlds which this book explores almost like a travelogue. Take the world of the Asonu, where children speak less and less as they mature, till as adults, their communication is entirely silent. The only sounds are those of nature and people going about their business - no conversation at all. (I could go for that!). Contrast that peaceful world with that of the Veksi who are always angry and quarrelsome, or the Hennbet who are either reincarnated beings or multiple personalities (or maybe both!). Even more imaginative are the long migratory cycles and courtship dances of the Ansarac (much to the disapproval of the efficient tech-specialists who try to colonize them) and the slow evolution of Mahigul. The book is not all light hearted fun however. Porridge on Islac looks at the dangers of genetic engineering. The land of Hegn, where everyone is part of the royal family and hence all attention is on the one family of commoners, neatly inverts the usual fascination for royalty, enabling Le Guin to gently skewer the monarchical concept. And Great Joy is a searing look at corporate behavioral ethics (or the lack of them). I must also credit the illustrator, Eric Beddows for some very apt images, including a couple that are startlingly reminiscent of the peerless M. C. Escher. A nice read, though very different from what one usually expects from Ursula Le Guin. (I wonder if she dreamed this one up at an airport!)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gulliver's (Le Guin's) Extraterrestial Travels 1 May 2009
By Daniel Murphy - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Just an opinion, but a book whose very title is a pun is off to a mighty good start. The premise of Changing Planes is that a traveler in a U.S. airport becomes so mightily disturbed by flight delay, food that could double as a petro-chemical, and airline attendants that could easily be outperformed by a Tickle Me Elmo doll, that she is able to access interstellar planes, making travel twixt the numerous civilizations in our universe quite accessible.

Daughter of a writer and an anthropology professor (Berkeley), LeGuin's earliest writings often involved imaginary civilizations. What does a writer whose career spans more than four decades, has garnered numerous awards, and gathered a significant band of devoted readers choose to write about in her mid-70's? Well, whatever she damn well pleases, is what. Which, with qualifications (more on this in just a bit), is much to our benefit.

The influence of LeGuin's anthropologist/writer genome is strong in Changing Planes. Some books, to be fit into a nutshell, would require a coconut. The kernel, but not all the richness, of Changing Planes can be fit into a sunflower seed: Think Gulliver's Travels on an intergalactic basis. In a series of short stories, each reflecting a trip to a different plane/planet, our neo-Gulliver (who goes by Sita Dulip)visits civilization after civilization, exploring whatever themes haunt the intelligent and agile mind of Ursula K. LeGuin. Genetic manipulation gone wild, clashes between cultures that differ in technological expertise, tales of the consequences of abandoning rituals that are tuned to the rhythms of nature, a planet turned into an extreme version of Disney's "Happiest Place on Earth": Le Guin simply lets fly, with largely intriguing results. My own favorite story? A planet is which everyone dreams a new, but shared, dream every night; a communal dream that includes the longings, fears, joys, and horrors of every citizen.

Changing Planes, absorbed at a measured pace, and with a bit of patience, is richly provocative. It could (in Berkeley, but not likely in Sarah Palin's home town) be used to great effect as an entire high school course, with sufficient depth of material to consume an entire semester. Is it worth your time? Let me get back to those qualifications I mentioned above...

If you like your sci-fi chock full of nano-tech warfare, spaceships whose guns are projecting blue trans-dimensional disrupter beams at sinister aliens, and scientific underpinnings as hard as diamonds (I do like all these things)....go play somewhere else. If you are ideologically in the Bush/Cheney camp (ideological implies ideas, admittedly a bit of a stretch for these two gentlemen), spare yourself some Pepcid/antacid purchases, pick up a Clancy novel instead. But if, on the other hand, you'd like a book that you could leave on your bedstand in order to graze on a story/plane, and subsequently drift off to sleep thinking "Hmmmmm. Interesting. Very, very interesting", well then! Time to change planes!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read! 19 Jan 2006
By G. Messersmith - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book makes me think of Douglas Adams and Jonathan Swift. It has the appeal and fun of "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" through the protagonist's (Sita) travels to varied societies (worlds) which are similar to the many places in "Gulliver's Travels".

The book is written as a pun about the miseries of air travel. The first page will strike a definite chord for anyone who has flown very much. Le Guin calls the worlds she visits "planes" (another little joke here I believe) where the protagonist(Sita Dulip) meets a variety of people. In all Sita goes to 15 different worlds where she meets societies to include a world where applied genetics had gone wrong; a society where the older the people got the less they spoke; another society talks but their words have meanings that change all the time; another world is one of migratory people who like many animals of our own planet trek long distances to mate.

This book is funny, ironic, intelligent, thought-provoking and the ultimate in escapism reading. Even if you've never read Le Guin before, you will be delighted with this book. The only complaint I have with the book is that the drawings in the book are distracting. The artist does a fine job, but I prefer to have my own mental pictures from a book; otherwise, it's a lot of fun to read!
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