Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Genres/Other Descriptors: sci-fi>space opera
Publishing info: July 29th, 2014; Harper Voyager; paperback edition
Check it out on goodreads
Before I jump in, a quick word: Bear with me while I experiment with reviewing stuff. I’m trying to figure out what’s going to work best for me, because I got sick of the old way I did things.
What’s it about?
This is a mostly light and fun space opera, featuring an ensemble, multi-species cast, as they travel across the galaxy in their ship, Wayfarer. The Wayfarer is a tunneling ship, and it’s their job to create new wormholes from one place to another. When Rosemary Harper joins the crew, hoping for a fresh start, she doesn’t really expect much from the old ship, or the motley crew. Just a bed, steady work, and a chance at a different life. But, a new job opportunity for the Wayfarer will test everyone aboard the ship as they navigate to their destination, and through the obstacles and adventures along the way.
First of all, this is absolutely a character-driven story. If that’s not your cup of tea, you might not enjoy it. I usually enjoy character-driven novels, but I was super nervous going into this one, because I know it’s really popular, and I was worried about being the weirdo who didn’t love it. Alas, my fears were unfounded! I blew through this book in one day, and I feel like it’s going to stick with me for a very long time.
I had so many feelings about the characters on the Wayfarer. It took me a little while to really like Rosemary and Ashby (I didn’t dislike them in the beginning, I just needed to get to know them a bit more), but from the start I loved Sissix, Dr. Chef, Lovey, Jenks, and Kizzy. Sissix was probably my absolute favorite character, and I definitely have a new fictional crush haha. I just adored her, and at times my heart broke a little for her. By the end, it was patched up a bit, though.
We mostly learn about all the different species through Rosemary, and her interactions with other characters, but it’s never like an info-dump or anything like that, which was so great. The way we learn about their cultures, religions, foods, similarities and differences to other species, relationships, etc. was really interesting, and I actually found myself wishing for even more. We learn a lot about them, but it was done so well that I just kept craving more and more.
I do very much enjoy sci-fi, usually, but sometimes I can get lost if there’s a lot of focus on the science part. This one does have some actual science-y stuff going on, but I never felt totally clueless. I might not have fully understood everything, but I got enough to have a pretty good idea of what was going on. (I think I read an interview or something with Becky Chambers in which she said she actually scaled the science-y stuff back a bit to make it more accessible, and I appreciate that.)
Going back to the heartbreak talk, something near the end of this book almost made me tear up. I won’t say what (or who it involved), but it was kind of devastating. I didn’t actually cry, but I felt like I might, for a while. Especially when there was that tiny glimmer of hope, but then it was snuffed out 😦
I liked how things mostly ran smoothly, as far as the relationships between the characters were concerned, but there were still issues that came up. Something happened a little over halfway through the book that was pretty terrible, but watching the aftermath of that incident play out was pretty satisfying, at least in terms of character development for one particular character. I’m not sure I fully condone the actions of a characters involved, near the end of the book, but I think the choice that was made was probably the right one.
The representation in this book kind of amazed me. I mean, I went into it knowing it was good, but having experienced this book (and this book is An Experience ❤ ), I’m still so happy. I wish there were more books like this. There’s m/f relationships, f/f relationships, discussion about gender and pronouns, there are non-monogamous relationships, inter-species relationships, etc., and it’s just…normal. It isn’t really treated as anything out of the ordinary, and it was so satisfying to read about.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a utopia kind of thing. There’s still snobbery, speciesism, and taboos. But those things aren’t really common, and there’s at least one character who’s reprimanded for their specieist talk.
And! There’s discussion about AI, and things like whether or not they deserve the same rights as biological sentient beings and stuff like that, which was really interesting. AI kind of freaks me out, honestly (as much as I loved AIDAN, I totally read the Illuminae Files with the lights on 😛 ), but the AI in this book was so lovable oh my gosh.
The story is told in a way that kind of feels like episodes, and I think this book would translate well to being adapted into a television series. (I would love to see this adapted, but only if it’s done well.)
While there are some really tense parts, and there is some action, mostly you just coast along with the characters, following their day-to-day lives. There isn’t a lot of drama, which I enjoyed. I personally really enjoy sometimes reading something that’s just nice. Not a lot of petty fighting or anything like that, no saving the galaxy and epic battles, just believable tension from everyday relationships and being stuck in close-ish quarters with the same people for a long time.
Overall, I absolutely adored this book, and I can not wait to read the companion novels. I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars (maybe actually like 4.75) ❤