The LONG WAY to a Small, Angry Planet
This is a first novel and it’s very good so standard disclaimer of “I Hate Her (not really)”. The book is a flat out space opera, more about the finely drawn characters than the technology or the futuristic politics. There is technology and politics, but the book uses those things to focus back on the characters, most of which are non-Terran. The book has been compared to the television show Firefly, one of the Best TV Shows Ever, because of its oddly paired but very effective group of characters.
Rosemary Harper, a young human from Mars, is on her way to a new job way, way, WAY far from home on the tunneling ship Wayfarer. She’s too young to have the deep and dark secret she carries, which turns out to be mostly a McGuffin though it informs a lot of her actions through the story. Rosemary is a member of the Galactic Commons, a multi-species hegemony, of which humans are a minor race. The Wayfarer is a typically multi-species crew, with humans Corbin the asinine algaeist, agreeable Captain Ashby, affectionate Aandrisk (lizard-like) co-pilot Sissix, the bubbly Grum doctor and cook Dr. Chef, the reclusive Sianat pair named Ohan navigating, friendly Lovey the AI, and the two mech techs Kizzy and Jenks who are nominally human but so wacky and science fiction-y that I’m going to classify them separately from the others. The ship itself “tunnels” open wormholes commercially, which can be a dangerous business and takes the crew pretty much everywhere. Convenient. They land a huge contract to open a wormhole to the small and angry planet Hedra Ka in Toremi space, and the bulk of the novel is about Rosemary becoming part of the Wayfarer family on its long and sometimes adventurous trek there.
There are a lot of glowing reviews on the outside and inside of Becky Chambers’ first novel. Most of them are from people who are also related to the publication in some manner, but that little ploy turns out to be harmless since it is as good as they say. The second book, A Closed and Common Orbit, is also available in paperback. These two books each have a great title, and I’m hoping for more in the series just to see what she’ll call them.
This may be the best space opera I’ve ever read, and I used to devour them like candy in my youth. When I finished I wanted to immediately know more about the crew – even the ones I didn’t like as much as I was supposed to. Everything in the book fit well, and close, like a well-made glove. Ms. Chambers created a raft of species, all utterly different from the next physically. This made their cultures wildly different, obviously making it difficult for everyone to co-exist. Everything is well thought out and interesting. Her writing skills are up to the match as well, with a breezy style that gave all the characters a distinct voice.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit and highly recommend it if you like science fiction, especially of the space opera variety.
Mildred warns: I’m noticing in the Monday with Mildred that the third link has a massive spoiler for the first book in its description of the second novel. You might want to post a spoiler warning.
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Wikipedia
- Becky Chambers Official Website
- SPOILER!!!!!! Book Page on Author Website