Saturday, 14 May 2016

Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Book cover of The long way to a small angry planet by becky chambers
This was another of my recent lunchtime library hauls. I'd gotten to the point where I was actively skimming blogs just for books I could request at the library. It's not like you pay for it (well, a 90p request charge, but my purse can handle it - just) and therefore why not be adventurous!? The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is by far my favourite book I've picked up so far - it's unique, fun, light and a great page-turner. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Plot summary: 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.

That's actually quite a misleading blurb. It sounds like Rosemary is a criminal stowaway and ends up on a ship full of other people with dark secrets, all trying to keep their past hidden at any cost... Ugh. Thankfully, no. When Rosemary does make her way onto the Wayfarer, she finds a crew of unique and loveable characters, with whom I'd love to spend a day just getting to know. They all have their own sub-plots and histories, and definitely do not feel that 'spaceships are very small indeed.' I do wonder if blurb-writers have ever even read the book in question...

The book is more about those little sub-plots than the overarching storyline about building the hyperspace tunnel.They embark upon a long journey across space to get to where construction can begin, and that is more the subject of the book. We stop off at secret hacker planet for semi-legal ship modifications, visit the home planets of the some of the crew and deal with moral issues relating to medical treatment and consent. It's way more interesting than a travel tunnel!

It's actually really well thought out. I imagine it can't be easy to come up with a whole galaxy of different races and planets, and then create some political turmoil to add to the mix. And that's before  you dream up some sub-plots based on which races don't like other races and the legal jurisdiction of Council legislation! Having said that, it does remain light-hearted and very easy to read throughout - it's a nice juxtaposition that works very well.

I love the atmosphere in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but then I'm a sucker for fictional friendships. Romance doesn't interest me much but I do love a good bit of platonic companionship. Friendships are tested to breaking point and allegiences are called into question, but the crew always stick together throughout their differences. Rosemary isn't quite sure where she slots into this to begin with, but the gradual change into acceptance gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

If I had one complaint, and I am nit-picking here, I'd like the relationships to be a little more... demonstrated. We're told that various crew members feel this way about each other (and that varies more than you might think), but we're never actually shown it. I'd just like to feel it a little more, I think. There's a plot point that's meant to be quite moving and upsetting at one point, but it just didn't bother me, and I think that's because I wasn't really emotionally invested. I was academically and narratively invested, but not emotionally.

To conclude, read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, even if the little does sound like a preachy non-fiction about the importance of recycling. It's so much more than I expected - great characters, perfect world-building and a completely unique plot. I'll be buying my own copy so I can reread it again and again.

Read Rinn's review of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet at Rinn Reads.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know anyone that hasn't loved this book. I have my fingers crossed that it wins the Clarke Award. I almost didn't read it myself, the first time I saw the description it sounded a bit like it was going to be Star Trek...but fortunately I gave it a go and I love it.


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