I like this book. The concept is unusual and the stories of all the different alien cultures are mostly good, some great and some average. It is not difficult to see the anthropologist in these. I think you need to have read some of her other works to really appreciate them.
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...
Ursula Le Guin’s collection of 16 anthropologically-styled short stories hinge around the premise that people who find themselves stuck in airports are able to slip between dimensional planes. The first story SITA DULIP’S METHOD sets out the premise, with each of the following 15 stories taking place on a different plane and setting out aspects of its culture as experienced by other travellers or academics. It’s a fascinating collection with Le Guin using each of the worlds to make a point about this one and I enjoyed the combination of barbed acidity and satire that she deploys with an effortless sweep of her pen. This is the first Le Guin I’ve read in many years and it’s reminded me of how much I admired and loved her work and certainly encouraged me to check out more of her work.
Of the 15 stories, my favourite is THE ROYALS OF HEGN, which is biting satire on the nature of class and the part that each of the ruling class and working class play in sustaining and reinforcing the other. However, GREAT JOY runs it a very close second – another satire, it imagines what happens when one of the planes is effectively privatised by a wealthy US elite who form a corporation that turns the plane’s population into virtual slaves forced to work in artificially created lands dedicated to American holidays, e.g. one where it’s Christmas all year long. I also enjoyed THE FLIERS OF GY, which is a moving tale of a world filled with bird-like people but where only a small minority are cursed with the ability to fly and the thought-provoking THE ISLAND OF IMMORTALS, which is set in a plane where the people of one small island are blessed with immortality. Although there are no obvious duds within the collection, I was less moved by THE BUILDING, which looks at the activities of an oppressed minority on a plane – purely because it was so open to interpretation and SOCIAL DREAMING OF THE FRIN, which didn’t appeal because of its focus on dreaming and the nature of dreaming, which is a subject that’s never really appealed to me. This was just a personal thing though and I would honestly have no hesitation in recommending this to either fans of Le Guin or those who are new to her work.
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.
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.