The long way to a small, angry planet – Becky Chambers
404 pages| publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|Genre: Science fiction/ fantasy
The digest: my favourite novel this year (so far)– Chambers excellently weaves every aspect of humanity into a story which spans across the stars. The characters are incredibly well thought out and each has clear progression and depth by the end of the story. I urge everybody to pick it up and have a read.
I went into this book knowing only what its own summary told me, and I believe that that is how the book is meant to be experienced. I know very little of the plot when I borrowed the book from my local library recently, and in my opinion, the less you know the better.
“Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.”
Why should you read it? The long way to a small, angry planet features the most diverse range of character types I can remember (both fitting into categories we have and those we don’t – as one would expect when aliens are involved!), the reader can identify with them, and the backstories each teach us something new about ourselves. Chambers artistically weaves her opinions and critique of the human condition into the narrative (occasionally semi-satirically), and I can’t wait to read more of her work.
We see inter-species relationships, non-binary characters, and fun science-fiction technology (without getting bogged down in the details). Every concept that the plot relies on is simply explained in a way which fits with the narrative (be it a direct conversation with Rosemary, or through other means). There is no knowledge-dump, only a steadily growing bank of science and space travel.
The novel is well paced, with some slower passages for character development (some of which is truly unexpected), and more intense scenes where you will not be able to put the book down. Only when the characters are so well crafted, and the plot so comprehensible, does this happen and I can name only a few books which have been able to draw me into the fictional world like this.
There is plenty enough intrigue left scattered about at the end of the series for massive expansion in later instalments, but at the same time, this is a complete experience. Some series start off with a weak(ish) first book and then rely on later novels to flesh out the storyworld, but this is not the case here. The author has crafted an entire story arc into 404 pages, which leaves the reader excited for more but fully content with what we have just consumed. By the end of the book, I can guarantee that most readers will feel a connection with the main cohort – what more than this and an outstanding plot can you possibly want in a novel?
This was an easy 5/5. I encourage you all to pick this up and have a read. If the rest of Chambers’ stories are this impressive, then I can see her becoming one of my favourite authors quickly. Although the sequel novel didn’t make it into my June reading post, it is sure to be in my July TBR.