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

★★★★☆
February 12th – 19th

I sometimes forget how much I really enjoy science fiction. If something has a cast of characters, especially multiple perspectives from them, I’m usually in. It’s the reason I like The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel, and the reason I enjoyed Illuminae when I read those.

This book had been recommended to me several times, and my partner had purchased it a while ago. I got to it first, and I’m very glad that I did. The book was fantastic. It stars a full cast of diverse characters of different species, orientations, races, physical abilities and disabilities. It has politics and tension, and the mundane aspects of working and living on a spaceship headed for new territory.

The story starts with Rosemary, a girl who’s running from her past and accepts a job aboard the Wayfarer, a ship whose job is tunneling black holes for easier space travel. They accept a job to create a tunnel to a planet who has just joined the GC, basically the UN for planets and races. In the cast of characters we also follow the captain of the Wayfarer, Ashby, the pilot, Sissex, two technicians, Kizzy and Jenks, as well as Dr. Chef and a few other characters who are each given time to shine in their own chapters.

We learn about the backgrounds of the individual characters, the circumstances that brought them to the Wayfarer, as well as the history between their species and the GC, and we see the political, racial, and socio-economic tension that exists between all of these different groups.

My biggest complaint was the writing style. Ending most pieces of dialogue with “they said” was distracting, and there were times that the character’s personalities felt forced and not totally smooth or natural. Sometimes this also bled into the chemistry between characters, though most of that dissipated by the middle of the book. There were large info-dumps of important information which you felt that you should have known several chapters ago, and sometimes it felt like things weren’t explained at all. In contrast, there were also page-long dialogue sequences where the main character was asking the questions as the audience, mainly so another character could explain what was happening.

I liked the commentary the book made on the environment, on humans, and on what our species did to itself. I enjoyed the creativity of the different cultures, specifically with the types of languages we see and the ways they were spoken (such as on inhales as well as exhale, or with multiple simultaneous tones.) I’m really excited to continue this series and see where it leads, and I can’t wait to pick up the next book soon.

-Siobhan

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