Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REVIEW | The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Publication Year: 2014
Genre: Science Fiction -Space Opera
Series: The Wayfarer #1
Awards: None
Format: eBook
Narrator: NA

WHY?:  Lots of people raved and it sounded awesome.  Plus there were Firefly comparisons which always hook me.

WHAT HAPPENS?: To escape some family problems, Rosemary joins the crew of a deep space tunneling ship, the Wayfarer, and is pleasantly surprised to find a new family.  The ship gets a commission to take on a long haul (year or more) job that puts them in dangerous space.  It's a risk but the money is great and they know they can handle it.  They have a couple of adventures on the way and the job is more than they bargained for and that's all exciting but mostly it's about the 9 crew mates on the ship and how life happens even when you're hurtling through space.  

This book is not hard to review at all though I don't know that my thoughts on it will add anything new to the reviews already out there.  It's really brilliant and is just overflowing with heart while somehow managing not to get schmoopy.  It's really genuine in a way that few books are.  The found family trope is one of my absolute favorites and this book gets it just right.  

The set up of the book is a thinly glossed series of vignettes, each of which helps the reader become more acquainted with each member of the crew.  There's the overarching story line about the trip to the mysterious and dangerous Hedra Ka (the small angry planet) but it almost just serves as a framework for the smaller stories that happen as they hurtle through space.

Half the crew is human but the other half are alien and Chambers does a fantastic job creating aliens that actually feel alien while also being recognizable. Sissix is a species that is evolved from a reptile-like ancestor and her character and the exploration of her society is awesome.  I love the Aeluons who communicate by using the changing colors on their cheeks which have infinite meanings.  It's obvious Chambers has really thought through everything and so they all feel very real, alien but also comfortable. 

In relation to the above, I really enjoyed how the book explored diversity in this future where humans are a somewhat insignificant species.  I especially connected with Lovey and how the universe is still grappling with Artificial Intelligences and how to treat them.  I'm glad the second book sounds like it focuses on this even more.

And that Firefly comparison?  This is the first book I've read that really does have that vibe.  It doesn't quite have the humor or the excitement that Firefly did but the found family and character dynamics really hit the sweet spot.  And Chambers totally has the knack, like Whedon does, of meshing the fantastical with the everyday mundanities, and delights, of life. 

It doesn't quite get full marks though it's close.  It's a little too feel good and drama free for it to be exciting and it did drag a little in places.  A little more conflict would have spiced things up.  Still really really lovely and well done.  

And if you want a glimpse of the humor this was one passage that made me laugh out loud:
“I ate a har—monica! These socks—match—my hat!” “Kizzy.” A tool clattered to the ground. Kizzy’s hands clenched into fists as the music swelled to a stormy crescendo. She danced atop the shuddering ladder, her head still in the ceiling. “Socks! Match—my hat! Socks! Match—my hat! Step on—some—sweet—toast! Socks! Match—my hat!” “Kizzy!” Kizzy ducked her head down. She pressed the clicker strapped to her wrist, turning down the volume of the nearby thump box. “’Sup?” Jenks quirked an eyebrow. “Do you have any idea what this song is?” Kizzy blinked. “Socks Match My Hat,” she said. She went back up into the ceiling, tightening something with her gloved hands. “Soskh Matsh Mae’ha. It’s banned in the Harmagian Protectorate.” “We’re not in the Harmagian Protectorate.” “Do you know what this song’s about?” “You know I don’t speak Hanto.” “Banging the Harmagian royal family. In glorious detail.” “Ha! Oh, I like this song so much more now.” “It’s credited with setting off the riots on Sosh’ka last year.” “Huh. Well, if this band hates the establishment that much, then I doubt they’ll care about me making up my own words. They can’t oppress me with their ‘correct lyrics.’ Fuck the system.”

FINAL VERDICT:  Loved it and all must read it, particularly if you enjoy aliens, journeys through space, found families and character driven narratives.  4 out of 5 Stars

OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE:  Read It and Leap | The Book Smugglers

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