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 anywhere - because she was already between planes ... and on the way back from her sister's wedding, she missed her plane in Chicago and found herself in Choom.
The author, armed with this knowledge and Rornan's invaluable Handy Planetary Guide - although not the Encyclopedia Planeria, as that runs to forty-four volumes - has spent many happy years exploring places as diverse as Islac and the Veksian plane.
CHANGING PLANES is an intriguing, enticing mixture of GULLIVER'S TRAVELS and THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY; a cross between Douglas Adams and Alain de Botton: a mix of satire, cynicism and humour by one of the world's best writers.
A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.CHANGING PLANESUrsula K. Le Guin. Harcourt, $22 (256p) When most people get stuck for hours in an airport, nothing much comes of it but boredom. When a writer like Le Guin (The Other Wind,etc.) has such an experience, however, the result may be a book of short stories. In "Sita Dulip's Method," a bored traveler, a friend of the narrator, discovers that if she sits on her uncomfortable airport chair in just the right way and thinks just the right thoughts, she can change planes not airplanes, mind you, but planes of existence. Each of the linked stories that follows recounts a trip by the narrator or someone of her acquaintance to a different plane. "The Silence of the Asonu," for example, describes a world where the people speak only half a dozen words in any given year, and "The Ire of the Veksi" recounts a visit to a plane where virtually all the natives are angry virtually all of the time. The majority of these stories are allegorical to some degree. Most have a satiric edge, as in "Great Joy," for example which features an entire world devoted to the commercial side of various holidays, with lots of great shopping in quaint little towns like No l City, O Little Town and Yuleville. Many of the tales echo, or take issue with, other works of fantastic fiction. Swift's Gulliver's Travels is clearly an influence, and one story, "Wake Island," can be seen as a re-examination of the basic premise of Nancy Kress's classic superman tale, "Beggars in Spain." This is a fairly minor effort, but like everything from Le Guin's pen, a delight. B&w illus. by Eric Beddows. 3-city author tour.