The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers, Book One
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-pub)
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.
But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.
Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.
Road Trip in Space
Content Warning for: Some Violence
Highlight for Spoiler: Forced Curing of Fatal Illness, Character Death
Let me preface this review by saying that I enjoyed this book a great deal although it has some flaws.
The Long Way is basically all about diversity and intercultural encounter and exchange – which is absolutely my thing; for those of you who don’t know it, I’m studying Chinese, lived in Macao for two years, and I read this book while traveling through Taiwan, so this book was a lovely traveling companion.
This story is set in space, which is not only a setting that I really dig, but which also works really well when wanting to represent all kinds of different people. Be it species, gender, ability, language, ideology, religion – you name it – it all can be found here, without it being over the top… Ah well, maybe a little, but who cares?
This book is basically a warm blanket and will be a pure delight for those who enjoy to read about acceptance, love, and friendship, and will give you all the fuzzy feelings. It’s also really quite funny – I burst out laughing several times – and has likeable characters whom I enjoyed spending time with.
What I really appreciate is that humans are not the superior species or of any great importance. They are one of many and even joined the interstellar community rather late.
However, for one, this book is too long; there are quite a few info dumps – some technical, some about society and so on – that the book could have done without. These parts also take the flow out of reading and contribute to some erratic pacing. This is enhanced by the episodic chapters that often end a little abruptly and start somewhere else in time or space.
Additionally, neither the characters nor the plot provide much tension. There is this one character who is kinda a dick, we see some character development in some of the people on board, and there is the one or other incident, but no overarching struggle can be found here, although there is some kind of goal for this road trip in space.
Having said all this, I surprisingly did not mind that very much or at all. It is with high expectations that I look forward to the next installment, that is a lot shorter and received a Hugo nomination.
So if you also want to spend time with cool and interesting people and like to explore different cultures, this is your book. Road trip in space for the win!
Becky Chambers is the author of the science fiction novels The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit. Her books have been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, among others. She’s currently at work on the next book in her Wayfarers series, Record of a Spaceborn Few. She also writes nonfiction essays and short stories, which can be found here and there around the internet.
In addition to writing, Becky has a background in performing arts, and grew up in a family heavily involved in space science. She spends her not-writing time playing games, keeping bees, and stomping around the woods. Having lived in Scotland and Iceland, she is currently back in her home state of California.
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