(Thanks to the worst night’s sleep I’ve had in, like, forever, this will be brief).
7 things to love about The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet:
- The pick-n-mix crew of lovable characters that live and work together aboard the Wayfarer, (think Farscape, Firefly and Star Trek: Voyager). Their job is to ‘punch’ holes through space, creating hyperspace tunnels between planets for space traffic, but this book is all about the soft and gooey centre: this crew is a family, with all the banter and squabbling and love that that entails. I am in love with them all: Sissix the super-affectionate pilot; kooky Kizzy the ‘mech tech’ and her best-friend and partner-in-crime Jenks the ‘comp tech’; Dr Chef the ship’s doctor and – you guessed it – chef; the big blue furry enigma that is Ohan; the OCD Corbin (Becky Chambers writes so well that I ended up loving Corbin just as much as the rest of the crew – no easy feat); noobie Rosemary; voice of reason and captain of the ship Ashby; and the adorable, sentient AI Lovelace. They all get good stories and some great lines and I defy you not to love them too.
- The dialogue. It’s well-written and never clunky, and sometimes it’s just downright hilarious.
- The universe of the Galactic Commons. Chambers’ world-building is elegantly done. She doesn’t bombard you with longwinded chunks of backstory, instead your knowledge of the GC sort of grows organically as you read a news feed here, an exchange between characters there. It’s also a wide, deep universe jam-packed with diverse alien cultures and complex political relations and history. It’s awesome to know that there’s another two books following this one because this is just such a great place to be.
- The optimism. This is a positive universe. Yes, bad things happen, but the message you take away with you is that friendship and family will get you through anything. I also loved that tolerance is championed here. Differences are for the most part acknowledged and respected, no matter whether relating to sexual, political, racial or physical variety, and those that pick on difference are called out on their attitude. For this alone The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet should be at the top of your TBR tower.
- Humanity is not at the top of the food chain. The human race has been accepted into the Galactic Commons, (although some members of the GC question this decision), but we’re nowhere near as smart or sophisticated as the three founding alien races, or anyone else for that matter. We nearly killed our home planet and ourselves, and have eaten a big-ass piece of humble pie as a result. Yes, we’re in the GC, but we still have a lot of evolving to do … and that’s rather refreshing to read.
- The food. Oh my goodness, the food. It all sounds sooooo good. Dr Chef’s exuberant culinary creativity is only rivalled by the crew’s enthusiasm for his dishes. Spring cakes and smoky buns, Boring Tea and Happy Tea, saab tesh and algae puffs – food is used to mark occasions, but eating together is also a daily ritual both on and off the Wayfarer. When food in space often means pills, packets and pastes, both here and now and in a lot of SF, it’s great to visit a science-fictional universe where the preparation and enjoyment of food is still a thing.
- Finally, the journey. Despite the small angry planet in the title, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is far more about the journey than it is about the destination. Everything that happened along the way was so involving and entertaining that I kind of forgot that the crew was heading somewhere at all. And really, that whole part of the plot was no more important than anything that went before it. The joy and charm of this book is all the meetings along the way, all the discoveries made and secrets uncovered, and all the things learned.
(P.S. Dentbots. Are. Awesome. No more brushing your teeth in this universe. You just squeeze some dentbot paste into your mouth and these little guys get to work cleaning your teeth and gums. How cool is that??)