The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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Rating 10.0/10

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As the title suggests this book is about a long journey to a small angry planet, following the lives of the crew of the ship The Wayfarer. The book is about much more than this journey, which has many layers to it. The journey to Hedra Ka (small angry planet) allows for the growth of the characters and is also a good starting point to this well realised universe.

The science of this novel is truly compelling and when mixed with the politics of the Galactic Commons (GC), it makes for a very interesting novel and transcends the usual sci-fi genre. It has a lot of really innovative ideas such as the fact that travelling faster than the speed of light has been banned due to its similarities to time travel. Even from the beginning of the novel we are able to see through the group’s dynamic that there are still problems of racism between different strands of humanity and other races throughout the GC.

The book starts with a new crew member about to arrive on The Wayfarer. Rosemary seems quite enigmatic when we first meet her, as she is running away from her past, and compared to the other crew members has lived a very sheltered life, never having been on a ship before and not knowing what to expect from the experience. The book changes between different character perspectives and by the end of the first few chapters we have met the rest of the crew of The Wayfarer.

 The crew of The Wayfarer consists of the following: Ashby, the Captain of The Wayfarer, a human Exodan, he is the friendly head of the crew that knows when his ship needs their captain and when they need a friend. Sissex is the pilot; she is an Aandrisk which is a reptilian like species who have scales and feathers. The Aandrisks have a very interesting culture, whose family structure is very different from that of humanity. Kizzy is one of the ships technicians; she is impetuous and very animated in everything she does. Jenks is the other tech, he is more considerate than Kizzy but they make a great team. Dr. Chef (his real name is too long to pronounce) is the ships healer as well as cook, hence the name. Dr. Chef is a Grum, a non GC species that when Rosemary joins The Wayfarer she has never heard of. Lovey is the ships A.I. but for most of the crew she is just another member of the team. Corbin is the ship’s algaeist, whose job involves maintaining algae as this is what powers The Wayfarer. The last member of The Wayfarer is Ohan, who is the ship’s navigator and is essential to The Wayfarer’s job of punching holes in space through the sub layer to create wormholes.

There is no main character per se, although some characters perspectives are given more time and consideration, but everyone gets their time to shine. The characters, even secondary characters, have well thought out back stories. The crew of The Wayfarer feel like a family you want to be part of, and through Rosemary’s perspective we get to see how the crew’s dynamics work and whether they will accept her into their home. Each character is so well written that even if Becky Chambers never revisits them you feel like their lives would continue after the end of the book.

Humanity is one of the newer members of the GC having been found by accident after some of humanity known as Exodans had left the solar system. The other half of humanity; those who made their home on Mars are known as Solans. The GC are made up of a number of different sentient beings of all shapes and sizes, in some ways it reminds me of the United Nations, over a much larger space and a much longer history. The GC is also the cause of The Wayfarer’s journey to the small angry planet of the title, which appears as the GC is in talks of an alliance with one of the clans of the Toremi, a warlike species who settle all ideological disagreements by killing the weaker idea.

Becky Chambers manages to cram a lot of information into the story without the reader ever being overwhelmed or impatient to find out more. The book deals with a lot of issues that are relevant now such as cloning, sexuality across gender (and species in this context), artificial intelligence, guerrilla warfare, euthanasia and the right to choose how you live.

From the moment I picked up this novel, I didn’t want to stop reading it, which gave me a small dilemma as I also didn’t want it to end. It is a very rare feeling when reading a book that you are being given a hug, this is due to the characters with their trials and tribulations really making me feel like I wanted to be there with them. There are so many amazing things about this book which I have tried to cover in my review, but to sum it up in one word I found this book to be: Perfect!

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Kizzy is the most obnoxious character I've ever come across in a book. That girl needs Zanex. If the author can evoke a feeling of annoyance from me then the book must be good.

10/10 from 2 reviews

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