This review is what I posted over at Allconsuming, where I track all my book-reading and other media consumption these days…
Whatever you think of Le Guin’s other works (I must admit to only having read a few of them myself), Changing Planes is not one that changes the canon of SF/fantasy forever.
However, it’s unreasonable to expect that of any writer’s every volume, and Le Guin has certainly earned her name elsewhere. Besides, not being a great classic doesn’t mar what this book actually is… which is, a great, fun, amusing, and very imaginative romp through a bunch of parallel worlds.
I rather enjoyed most of the stories, and they are, definitely, short stories. They were published over the years in various SF/F magazines, and though the stories are linked, you can read them one at a time, leaving the book aside between each, for they stand alone quite well. Each “plane” that Le Guin describes is, of course, laden with a complex of fascinating significances, and yet–to her credit–she doesn’t construct anything quite as straightforward as allegory in any of them. There were moments when I felt some of the politics were a bit, well, heavy-handed, but Auntie Ursula (a term I use affectionately) does, after all, call ’em as she seems to see ’em.
I was quite surprised at her saying that some of the misery of airplane travel was caused by “fanatics in caves”, since it seems to me that other fanatics are surely having a strong hand in the miseries of air travel.
In any case, a fascinating book, and one I think would be great to foist upon a teenager someday, but read it for what it is… light, thoughtful entertainments.