Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publisher: Harper Voyager on August 18, 2015
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. View Spoiler »
This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by Rinn Reads and Over the Effing Rainbow. Follow along on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET is easily one of the most charming and heartwarming stories I’ve read this year – and it’s also one of the most creative. From individual characters to interpersonal relationships to alien cultures, Chambers proves that there are fresh possibilities and perspectives within a tried-and-true story.
Leaving behind her life of luxury on Mars, Rosemary Harper makes a desperate gamble for freedom when she applies for a position aboard The Wayfarer, a tunnelling ship that creates travel routes between disparate points of the universe. This time, the crew of The Wayfarer is in it for the long haul: a journey across the galaxy to war-torn space controlled by the Toremi (a species currently embroiled in a brutal civil war) to create a tunnel that’ll give the crew a major windfall. Needless to say, Rosemary and her new crew mates get to know one another very well throughout the journey…which was an absolute treat to read about.
Told from multiple POVs, THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET depicts the world of space travel from more than ten perspectives, each one distinct and unique. From the polyamorous and physically affectionate alien Sissix (loved her!) to the ship’s sentient AI Lovey, to the two-spirited navigator Ohan, each of these characters was wholly original. If nothing else, Becky Chambers is clearly a master at developing characters and alien cultures. Her world-building is evident in her careful descriptions of various species and their conventions, as well as their conflicts with other cultures.
These loveable characters and their relationships kept me engaged throughout the story, despite its very basic plot (a hodgepodge group of travellers moves from Point A to Point B with a few bumps along the way). I’m a reader who’s driven to find diverse stories, and I’m pleased to say that THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET fits the bill perfectly. Queer sexualities and gender identities; racial, ethnic, and cultural differences; and ultimately, completely dissimilar ways of being are all celebrated here. Three cheers for that!
As you can probably imagine given the wide array of characters on board a small spacecraft with little to do besides work and talk, there are some pretty unforgettable moments of dialogue. This is a funny, sweet, heartfelt book that had me chuckling aloud at some moments and tearing up during others. Particularly poignant were the discussions of war and its impact on societies and individuals; these discussions came from all sides, including pacifists and those who had active roles in horrible wars. While this book is hardly the “deepest” sci-fi novel I’ve read this month, it does prompt reflection on violence and whether it can be justified.
I’ve fallen in love with these characters and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them in the sequel, A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT. The only thing stopping me from giving this a perfect five star rating is the plot, which I confess was a bit too barebones for my tastes. If you’re looking for an intricately plotted novel, THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET isn’t it – but it is an achievement in character-driven writing.