Book Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
A perfect score for a near-perfect book! I absolutely adored this novel from start to finish; once I picked it up I couldn't put it down, often falling asleep with the pages pressed against my cheek, after spending an evening fully engrossed in the story. Being the perfect blend of humour, heart and adventure, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a must read 'Space-opera' for any sci-fi fan who wishes that they too could fly among the stars.
(Spoiler Free!) Summary
Rosemary Harper has her secrets. Which is why, after living a sheltered and privileged life on Mars in a human colony, she joins the crew of the Wayfarer, a shabby but well-loved spaceship that specializes in building wormholes, or hyperspace tunnels, to distant parts of the galaxy. For Rosemary, life on the Wayfarer gives her the chance to explore worlds she's only ever dreamed of seeing, from bustling alien marketplaces to dusty colony moons, while letting her put a whole lot of space (literally) in between her and her troubled past life.
But life on the Wayfarer isn't necessarily the perfect, peaceful getaway Rosemary was hoping for. The eclectic crew, filled with various alien species, has formed its own familial unit which, like every other family in the galaxy, is filled with equal amounts of unconditional love and ridiculous arguments. After being offered the job of a lifetime which takes the crew on a year long journey through a dangerous, war-torn section of the galaxy, Rosemary soon learns that on the Wayfarer, everyone has their own stories to tell, and secrets to keep; but secrets have a way of coming out, especially on a long-haul job on a ship where hiding places are far and few between, and with the fragile galactic alliance hanging in the balance, the tiniest misstep from any member of the crew could lead to the revelation that shatters the universe into a million pieces forevermore.
Out of this world// the universe that Becky Chambers has created in the novel is truly out of this world, as she imagines a time where humanity is forced to leave Earth, due to war and famine, and create a colony on Mars, joining a galaxy-wide alliance with a number of alien species, over which humans hold little influence. Chambers' alien creations are magnificently well drawn, from the reptilian Aandrisks, who are overtly physically affectionate and covered in feathers, to the attractive and elegant Aeluons, who communicate by changing colour as opposed to making sounds, to so many more. The planets that the Wayfarer visit are similarly unique and engaging, from planet-wide marketplaces which sell everything from AI tech to soap, to tiny lost communities existing on the very edge of the galaxy. Chambers doesn't merely create a whole new world, but an entire universe, teeming with culture, language and endless possibility.
Relationships// one of Chambers' greatest achievements with her book is her ability to take issues that one might face on Earth within the human race, and blow it up on a much larger scale. She questions how different alien species can communicate with each other, by inserting specialist voice boxes and learning about each other's cultures and gestures so as not to offend one another. With her inclusions of inter-species and same-sex romantic relationships, as well as a character who uses plural gender pronouns, Chambers proves that, by avoiding prejudicial terminology and being open to things you may not understand, all species can for the most part co-exist peacefully and happily. In doing so, Chambers holds up a mirror to the human race and points out the ways that we, too, can become more welcoming and accepting to those who are seemingly different to us.
Wrap it up
I honestly can't sing this book's praises enough. Not only is it informative about certain real elements of space travel, which melds perfectly with the fantastical alien species and whimsical adventure, but it also covers so many interesting and thought-provoking themes, such as Artificial Intelligence becoming sentient, and whether or not they should be treated with the same respect as other living beings. The mismatched crew and lovingly worn spaceship is extremely reminiscent of Joss Whedon's short-lived but much loved TV series Firefly, (well it was for me anyway!) and fans of the show will inhale this story, only craving more once they turn the final page. For an enjoyable, uplifting and genuinely fun read, I would definitely recommend The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which will reignite your love for sci-fi if it's been waning as of late, or set ablaze a new fire for those who are new to traversing the stars.
The sequel A Closed and Common Orbit, is being released this October, and I'm going to be first in line to buy it, so get to reading the first instalment and I'll see you all on the other side.