The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
by Becky Chambers
Rating: 5+ Stars
‘When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed…’
I received an eARC Copy of this book from Netgalley, what follows is my own opinion.
I seem to have taken my time posting this review, as I finished the book very quickly a few weeks ago now. This is largely because I was trying to get my thoughts in order. This may be a fairly averaged sized book – 416 pages – but it contains multitudes.
So I’ll admit to clicking on this initially because it has a stunning cover and an intriguingly lengthy title (and very appropriate it is too). I’ve never read anything by Becky Chambers before, but it played into my need to read more sci-fi and I was sold.
Although the synopsis seems to imply that this book is solely in Rosemary’s POV that is not the case, we jump in and out of the heads of the crew, dart into the minds of side-characters and enemies. It’s wonderfully orchestrated, we get to watch as an entire universe unfolds before our eyes, in a manner that somehow has no limits but still maintains the tension.
Chambers’ world-building is staggering. She has somehow created complex species, teeming civilisations and delicate political situations that all feel completely believable. Sissix’s species is particularly fascinating, their approach to families, child-rearing and death are intriguing and really made me consider the peculiarities of our own attitudes. The Navigator is equally wonderful and highly imaginative, an entire race built around a intelligence enhancing virus? Genius. Chambers’ deals in highly original concepts with a great deal of assurance and flair.
These are just some of the strokes of genius that really set this book apart for me. The concept of humanity as a very small cog in the machine, humans as a pacifist group of Exodus-like travellers, the myriad of different species – especially the Dr Chef ( Dr Chef deserves to be a point all of his own and his individual story is very special).
But what I love most is that Chambers manages to pack so much stuff into a small space, environmentalist concerns, religious issues, questions of respecting culture/race/species, the dangers of retreating into fundamentalism, body modification, artificial intelligence (Lovey, oh Lovey is a marvel) and so much more.
A lot of the reviews of this book compare it to Firefly and I can see where they’re coming from – a motley crew of outcasts, secret pasts, governments with mysterious motives… But it is far, far from just a rehashing of Firefly. It is so much more than that and you SHOULD read it. That is all.