the Little Red Reviewer

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Posted on: August 25, 2016

long way plantyThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

published in 2016

where I got it: purchased new

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Remember the movie Titan A.E.?  Mash that up with four parts Firefly and one part Station Eleven, make it a little more lighthearted, and you’ll have something approximating The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

 

The captain and crew of the Wayfarer doesn’t care much about Rosemary’s past. All they care about is that she’s a discreet and qualified clerk and that she understands shipboard safety. All Rosemary cares about is getting as far away from Sol system as possible.  The Wayfarer is tunneling ship – they tunnel wormholes the slow and hard way so a permanent wormhole tunnel can be used for interstellar travel.  It’s hard boring work, but it pays well and if you know what you’re doing it’s not dangerous. Well, not too dangerous.

 

Like the TV show Firefly,  it’s the crew and characters that makes this story shine. Among the crew, we’ve got hyper-chipper stoner engineers, polyamorous reptiles, a doctor from a dying race, a cranky algae tech, an overly polite AI, and a captain who’s got to keep the ship running and his crew fed.  Beyond the ship are space pirates, black markets,  arms dealers, and every opportunity to get a fresh start in life.

 

My favorite characters by far were Sissix and Dr. Chef.  This isn’t a human dominated galaxy, but it’s a human ship, and Sissix and Dr. Chef are the literal fish out of water. Sissix is of a reptilian race, and her people are are very touchy feely, very open about sexuality, and polyamorous. If she’s going to be accepted on a human ship, she’s got to dampen down everything about herself. Why would anyone from her homeworld torture themselves like that?  Dr. Chef’s actual name is completely unpronounceable, and the infant human race is a constant source of entertainment for him. His race literally destroyed itself, they are a cautionary tale.  Dr. Chef seriously needs his own book, I loved him!

I found the first half of the book to be enjoyable, if a little on the slow side. Rosemary gets to know her crewmates,  she finally fesses up to what caused her to run away from home,  and Kizzy provides comedy relief by being, well, Kizzy.  I guess that’s life aboard a ship – it can’t be crazy action every day, now can it?   Just past the halfway point, the plot goes into overdrive, and the pace and action ramps up right until the end.  I  know this book is getting rave reviews (yay!),  but right when the plot starts getting going is when it also got rather predictable for me.  Rosemary proves she’s worth her weight in fuel in a tense situation, two characters who can’t stand each other end up saving each other’s lives,  one of the shipboard romances ends happily and other one ends tragically.  When the Wayfarer gets to the core, and meets up with some very strange aliens, Rosemary sees something she recognizes.  Was it a fun book? Yes. Do I wish there was more there there? Yes.

 

I’m always pushing science fiction books on my friends and family. I love something, so I want them to love it too. And more often than not, my friends will very politely give the book back to me and say “sorry, it just wasn’t for me. Too weird”.  Well, I think I found the perfect book to give them as a gateway into space opera.  The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet doesn’t have much in the way of hard science “I don’t know, it just works”, is generally how the gizmos on the ship are explained,  nearly everyone speaks the same language, and more importantly, this is a novel about the relationships between people. And everyone likes stories about people, right?

 

A while back, someone i follow on twitter posted something along the lines of “what is the point of telling stories?”  and I responded with something like “stories tell us how to be human”.  Yes, stories do that. But it’s really the relationships within the stories that show us how to be human. And that’s the glowing gem in this novel – the relationships, the interdependence, and the empathy between the characters.  You don’t have to like someone to do right by them, and if you happen to like them, well then, you want to make their life a little less miserable if you can.

 

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was an enjoyable and satisfying book to read. If you’re looking for an easy to read adventure story with great characters, this book will scratch that itch. And if you’re the kind of reader who reads between the lines? Plotting issues aside, even you will find plenty to chew on here as well.

 

11 Responses to "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers"

Even though you liked–but didn’t love– this book, your review made me eager to read it. It sounds like it has all the stuff I like about space opera and none of the stuff I don’t. Thanks for the informative review!

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😀 that about sums it up – I liked it but didn’t love it. It’s a great book and I’m happy a lot of people love it, just wasn’t a great book for me. It’s a fantastic light hearted space opera, and it sounds like the author is working on a sequel.

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I agree it was enjoyable but like you, it wasn’t enough science fiction for me, and I don’t think of myself as a serious science fiction reader. I felt it was predictable and I’d seen the plotlines before (like on star trek episodes). I did like Sissix and Dr. Chef and I also liked the guy no one liked (was his name Colin?) I was bothered by the AI storyline because I didn’t feel they really explored the implications of an AI having a body. Of course maybe that will be covered more in a future book. But I felt like the book threw a lot of emotional issues out there and didn’t really explore any of them, so that’s just one example. I think if you want a book that’s written like a tv show — lots of characters, not a lot of depth, this one’s a good one. I’m liking the Corey series better, although sometimes it feels very male.

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With the AI storyline, i kinda felt like I knew where that storyline was going from the get-go, probably because like you, I’ve seen that story line before. So while I felt bad for the guy, I wasn’t at all surprised about what happened. I agree that there seemed to be a lot of emotional stuff that happens, that everyone seems to forget about (like in an episodic tv series) a few days later. I actually wish the novel had been 100 or so pages longer, so different things that happened could have been explored more, instead of touched on and then barely mentioned again.

My husband is really enjoying the Corey series, I lost steam with it in book 4, and it’s been so long since I read it, I feel like I need to reread books 3 and 4 again. I like the sprawl of that series.

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Sounds pretty good, I’ll look for it at the library. Thanks.

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They’ll probably have a bunch of copies, it seems popular for reading groups. you might need to ask for it in the YA section. It’s not a YA book, like, at all (swear words! nudity! some tasteful sex!), but it’s written on a YA-ish reading level.

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I loved this one. I didn’t think i did while reading it. I found it enjoyable and all, but once I finished it I sorta wanted to reread it straight away and couldn’t stop thinking about the characters.

I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

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I’m so happy there is a sequel in the works! It’s such a great set of characters, and a fascinating world, there are so many more stories the author could tell in this world. and seriously, Dr Chef needs his own book!

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I enjoyed this book – I wouldn’t say it’s one of my all time favourites and the story itself almost comes over more like a series of short stories somehow but I’m really pleased that the author is writing more – I loved some of the characters were great – Dr Chef particularly.
Lynn😀

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I’m glad you enjoyed this one, I absolutely fell in love with it. I think you’re definitely right about it being the right sort of book to pass on to people who maybe aren’t super into SF, because it’s less about space and more about the people within it.

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The other series it reminds me of is the Ishmael Wang series by Nathan Lowell (in some ways).

So far I’m really enjoying it.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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