The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
To be published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 13, 2015 (originally 2014)
my rating: ★★★★ ★
Goodreads avg: 4.17 (as of 2019-03-05)
Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m just glad I finally got around to it. Everyone has been singing praises of The Long Way for what feels like ages, but I kept putting off reading it because for some reason I get intimidated by “hard sci-fi” books even though I almost always end up loving them. Luckily, I managed to win a giveaway thrown by Debbie’s Library back in August, and received a copy of it then! I finally got around to picking it up and wow am I glad I did.
With a terrible silence, the sky ripped open. It swallowed them.
Rosemary looked out the window, and realized that she’d never really seen black before.
As is typical of a longer book with a larger cast, it took me a bit to get into The Long Way. Chambers does a skillful job of introducing us to the world and the characters, but I always get overwhelmed anyway. Once I made it through the first hundred pages or so, I was hooked. The majority of the book takes place aboard a spaceship called The Wayfarer, as the multispecies crew is joined by their newest member, Rosemary. While there’s a decent amount of action, what I really fell in love with was the world and the characters that Chambers has created.
Being alone and untouched… there’s no punishment worse than that.
The characters are all so unique in wonderful ways, but my favorites are definitely Sissix and Rosemary. It felt like Rosemary was our portal into this otherwise foreign world — she had grown up planetside and was unfamiliar with a lot of the ins and outs of space travel (although through her studies she had learned a lot about different alien cultures). This was a nice way to ease the reader in without making it seem like they were being spoon fed every piece of information about the world. Meanwhile, I really loved learning about Sissix’s culture. She comes from a lizard-like bipedal species that’s polyamorous as hell and relies strongly on physical contact to express affection. I found it interesting to learn more about them, and to see how Sissix is able to modify her own methods of socialization in order to mesh better with the crew.
He was not a prisoner of those memories. He was their warden.
That’s really just the tip of the iceberg as far as the new species and cultures Chambers has come up with. She’s also able to navigate some interesting ethical dilemmas that may evolve with more progressive technology, such as advanced body modifications, cloning, and the potential rights that could be given to AI. Somehow she can incorporate all these elements without sounding preachy or like she’s squeezing too much into the story.
I’ll never understand how the rest of you expect brand new adults to be able to teach kids how to be people.
Overall, I just loved this book and truly didn’t want it to end. I felt a wild wave of emotions crest over me when I turned the last page, because in a way I was losing some new friends it seemed I had just gotten to know. While I’ve been known to get emotional over books, they rarely make me feel quite this strongly. The Long Way is really something special and I highly recommend picking it up if you’re interested. I just can’t wait to see what Chambers’ other books have in store for me.