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

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers, scifi, space opera, Wayfarers, book review, bookstagram, adventure

The other day I was idly scanning through Kindle’s book recommendations for me when I saw, in the scifi section, Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet.

How cool is that title? Very Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, don’t you think? Naturally, I couldn’t help clicking on it – and, boy oh boy, was I glad I did.

First of all – space operaaaaaa!!!

Second, I’ve been reading a lot of YA fantasy lately which was starting to feel a bit same-samey after a while and it was a relief to sink my teeth into something that felt a lot more original and unique.

If you like Guardians of the Galaxy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Firefly, you’re sure to like The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet. It tells the stories of the eclectic crew of the Wayfarer, a spaceship that specializes in tunneling, creating hyperspace lanes between various locations in space. Now they’ve got a contract that will take them a long, long way across space to, well, a small angry planet. And along the way, we get to find out a little about each of the crew members.

There’s Rosemary, a young Martian woman who’s escaped a life of privilege (and something more) on her planet, quirky techs Kizzy and Jenks, ship captain Ashby who comes of the pacifist-minded Exodus colony, antisocial algaeist Corbin, Dr Chef the super-sweet medical supervisor and cook of the ship who comes from a species so violent they’ve near decimated themselves; Ohan, the mysterious navigator, Lovey the ship’s sentient AI, and Sissix, the ship’s reptilian pilot.

Author Becky Chambers grew up in a family that boasts an astrobiology educator, an aerospace engineer and an Apollo-era rocket scientist so I’m just going to assume all the science and space stuff in The Long Way is pretty much bonafide. But more than the science and space talk, it’s the characters that drive the book. Chambers does a great job of leading us into little plot points that let us find out more about each character, their little idiosyncrasies and their past, and how they interact with each other and their Galactic Commons world, the interspecies relations, the politics and the complexities that arise from it. This is my favourite part – I always love reading about how different cultures interact, and even more so if they’re different species from different planets! And Chambers does that really well too, just throwing out little random offhand observations – for example, when Rosemary notices the metal stairs in the Wayfarer are carpeted and Sissix explains it was put down for her so she doesn’t catch her claws in the grating. Ouch!

I loved getting to know the Wayfarer crew in this book and I now want to know even more about them. And I love that The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet is essentially an optimistic and hopeful story – I’m a little tired of reading about oppression and pessimism in dystopian novels. I’m not naïve enough to think everything will be roses and love in the future, but I’d like to think that realistically you couldn’t go too far in the opposite way without tipping the scales back to some sort of balance either. We have to give humanity a little more credit than that or we might as well just give up right now.

My only one – and really quite mild, teeny tiny – criticism is that in giving each character their turn in the spotlight, some of their stories feel a tad bit rushed in the telling and definitely leaves you wanting to find out more about them. Rosemary is supposed to be the main character whose story is driving The Long Way, but I’m left wanting to know more about her, her past and how she’s going to further develop – and the same goes with most of the other characters. I find myself hoping that Chambers is going to bring back some of these characters in future books and let us get to know them better! Side note: I find quite a few characters in A Long Way reminding me of characters from other books – Kizzy’s warm, exuberant but oftimes cheesy personality brings to mind Shasta Raylle from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill, I can’t help imagining Captain Ashby looks like Poe Dameron from the new Star Wars (and I seriously hope there will be a story in the future about him and Pei!), and Ohan seriously reminds me a lot of the Ariekei from China Mieville’s mind-blowing Embassytown.

Conclusion: The Long Way to An Angry Planet is quirky, sweet, heartwarming and just so damn fun to read, and I for one can’t wait for Chamber’s next story in the Wayfarers series. I want more – more Wayfarers!!!!

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