• The Good: Diverse group of social science short stories
  • The Bad: Silly frame story; no character development
  • The Literary: Great focus on linguistics and the inherent difficulties of translation

Sita Dulip’s flight out of Chicago was delayed, delayed again, and finally cancelled. Frustrated by the crowds, food, and toilets, simultaneously bored and tired, Sita discovers a new kind of inter-planar travel. With a simple twist and bend, Sita realizes she can travel to other parallel dimensions. Aftr becoming sufficiency irritated in various airports around the United States, she visits fifteen societies on an anthropological tour.

Sita’s discovery is a simple frame story for the vignettes that explore reflections on humanity. Some are satire; some are allegorical; all are pure social science fiction. It may be a little silly to use a pun (airplane versus plane of existence) for the basis of a collection of short stories, but if you don’t like flying, you’ll appreciate her candor on airports.

It’s difficult to choose favorites, but some of the most memorable include:

  • Seasons of the Ansarac: Reminiscent of Game of Thrones, the people of Ansar live on a planet where each season lasts for the equivalent of six years. The narrator describes their society, based entirely on their migratory patterns, spending spring and summer (their mating season) in small northern villages, and fall and winter in southern cities. The people are folksy in that they follow the natural course of the seasons and their hormones, until visitors convince them to modernize and not let nature determine where they live and when they procreate.
  • Great Joy: After discovery by corporate executives, an entire privately-owned plane of existence caters to rich tourists . Each major island endlessly celebrates a holiday, whether it be Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or the 4th of July. Sita’s cousin Sulie loves this plane because she loves the joy of Christmas and the always-smiling natives play the nativity scene so well. If you hate the commercialism of the holidays and see through the guise of dressed up slave labor, this story is for you.
  • The Island of the Immortals: The inter-plane travel agencies don’t recommend the Yendian plane for inexperienced travelers. Many go for the diamonds that populate the desert sands, but Sita is curious to learn about the legend of the immortals. Enduring much to get there, she finds the locals quiet and standoffish, but eventually finds an immortal, and it’s not what she expects. Powerful and visceral, this is the stuff of which LeGuin’s work is made.
In addition to the above, you’ll explore linguistics by studying a people who stop talking at puberty and another whose texts are not written horizontally or vertically, but radially. You’ll interview a woman who is part corn and a man who grew wings, a disability among his people. You’ll learn what happens to a people who share their dreams, a collective unconsciousness, and what happened to children who were genetically engineered to stop sleeping altogether.
Highly recommended for fans of social world-building and social satire, especially if you are going on a trip soon!