This collection of short stories are all linked by a single idea: when we’re waiting in an airport, we can just slip away to another dimension, or ‘plane’. If you haven’t heard of this phenomenon, I do recommend Ursula Le Guin’s travel memoir — a little out of date now, perhaps, but certainly a good introduction to some of the planes that are out there. Her choice of stories might seem pointed at times — there’s an inherent criticism of all things commercialised in her discussions of the Holiday Plane, for example — but the locals she speaks to and the stories she reveals are fascinating nonetheless. I don’t think I’d want to visit all of these planes, but the Library of Mahigul sounds fascinating, and I’d love to take a DNA sequencer to Islac and try to puzzle out quite how they got their genomes into such a mess.
Of course, there are many other planes out there that Le Guin did not cover, and doubtless there are fascinating stories she could have told and never had time to tell, or never wanted to tell. I’m sure there’s a fair share of utter tragedy and horror out there — but also beauty, and Le Guin finds that even in some of the sadder places.
A recommended read — especially if you’re going to be flying soon.