The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
by Becky Chambers
Publication Date: August 15, 2015
Length: 443 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Obtained Via: Library
#1 in Wayfarers
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When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past.
And nothing could be further from what she’s known than the crew of the Wayfarer.
From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn’t part of the job description.
The journey through the galaxy is full of excitement, adventure, and mishaps for the Wayfarer team. And along the way, Rosemary comes to realize that a crew is a family, and that family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe… as long as you actually like them.
So, I started reading this book in July. I got to 25%, realize I was enjoying it SOO much and didn’t want it to end so soon, and put it down. I didn’t pick it back up again until October. Oops. HOWEVER, my initial thoughts on the first 25% held up, because I adored this book.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is all heart. This is not a fast-paced adventure novel. There are relatively little explosions. I’ve seen it compared to the show Firefly, which I found quite accurate not only because it revolves around a space ship crew but also because there is an episodic quality to the novel. While the crew aboard the Wayfarer does have an overarching goal — completing their mission — the bulk of the novel concentrates on what happens between the acceptance of that mission and the completion.
The only thing misleading about the summary is that it makes it sound as if Rosemary is the main character. This is an ensemble cast, through-and-through. The story picks up with Rosemary joining the crew, but after that initial bit the on-page time is split evenly between a few principal members of the cast. It’s written in third-person, not first-person point of view, but it still manages to feel very much like a multi-POV novel.
I was a little skeptical about the inclusion of alien species, but I found myself enamored with the world that Chambers created. There are multiple species in this universe, and they’re all so different, not only in physical characteristics but also in culture, belief, and manners, which is where I think a lot of alien fiction fails. Chambers also uses these species to play around with gender, which is intriguing. Certain species change genders their entire lives, while others are always referred to with plural pronouns, while others stay slightly more binary. The way all these species interact with each other is a major part of the novel.
I’ve read some reviews that call this a “literary sci-fi”, but I don’t know if I find that accurate. I think a better term is introspective. The relationships between crew members are the most important part of this novel. The way they come together to make something new despite being from different backgrounds and even different species is what this novel explores. While there are some fun parts, it’s not the book to pick up if you want a thrilling science-fiction action novel. Each of the characters get their time to shine, and it’s very easy to fall in love with the Wayfarer crew. If that sounds intriguing, then I encourage you to pick it up and I hope you love it as much as I did.
A fantastic novel that combines some of my favorite things: ensemble casts and spaceships! It was hard for this book to go wrong with me. It’s not going to be for everyone, but I loved it and the way it so casually explored humanity without seeming forced like science fiction often can. 5/5 stars.