Book Review: THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET by Becky Chambers

Genre: Sci-Fi
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Series: Yes - first of the Wayfarer series


the long way to a small angry planetRosemary joins the crew of the Wayfarer, a tunnelling ship that constructs wormhole-like tunnels through space. All she wants is to get away from her previous life, and a patchwork spaceship seems like the perfect place.

The crew is a diverse mix of species – from the reptilian pilot Sissix to the human, and constantly squabbling, techs to the AI who’s as much part of the crew as the rest. Soon, Rosemary finds herself fitting in to their chaotic lifestyle.

They take a long-haul job, travelling towards the galaxy’s core in order to connect the planet of a new member of the galactic community. But the route is long, and space isn’t exactly a peaceful place. The galaxy is full of fragile alliances that could break at any moment, and they’ll have to navigate to one of the most worn-torn areas without dying or sparking a war.

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The Guardian is quoted, on the front cover, as calling the book “a quietly profound, humane tour-de-force”. I cannot agree more.

This is not an action-packed book – it does have it’s moments of action – but generally it’s a slow, steady book that explores what it is to be ‘human’/’sentient being’. Using the lens of all these alien races, Becky Chambers explores war, conflict, love, family, relationships and more.

By showing these traits and topics in the persona of alien species, the book can dive right into the murky, darker sides of humans (and the nice too – a lot of focus on what constitutes love and relationships). The book doesn’t shy away from pointing out these are human flaws too, but it feels less like a collection of essays this way.

These ‘essays’ are presented as scenes/chapters in the crew’s journey, and the journey simply  feels like a way of stringing together these thought-provoking moments. There’s no much of a plot – not until the last 50-pages when things really start to happen. They wander along to different planets, meet different people (often sparked by a tech-breakdown or a boarding-that-ends-up-not-being-a-boarding) and contemplate the differences in the species and the things that tie them together.

It’s an interesting and though-provoking read, but not the book to pick up if you want an action packed, space adventure with chases and space-battles. It’s a deep, beautifully written examination of what it is to be human – and what it is to love.

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