Book Review: 'The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet' by Becky Chambers

Review by Fay Clark
I decided to pick up The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. There were a few reasons for this, one of the main ones being I met this lovely author at the YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) back in July. I hadn't read anything she'd written before, so I felt like a bit of an impostor. The other reason is why we met her in the first place; my bookish friend had fallen in love with this book so she wanted to meet Becky to get her copy signed. My mate has never steered me wrong, and we can officially chalk another one on to the "Thank you for making me read this" board.

The book is quite a long one, coming in at roughly 500 pages, so there was a lot to get through. While it looked rather intimidating, within the first 20 pages I was already invested in the characters that I'd met and wanted to see where this long journey was going to take me.

I guess that The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet falls into the genre of Sci-Fi, but with a little Space Opera and some LGBT+ sprinkled in. I can honestly say I've never read a space opera before and I have found a new genre to fall in love with. 

There are several people involved in this story but I would say that the main character is Rosemary Harper. She is a young martian who has lead a very sheltered life, up until wheels are set in motion, pushing her out into the wide universe.

Enter Wayfarer, a "Tunnelling" spaceship. Tunnelling is basically punching holes in space to make the equivalent of what we humans would call a road, but, you know... in space. When the Captain of the Wayfarer, Ashby, takes a job to punch a hole to one of the furthest parts of the universe, it takes the Wayfarer a long time to make the journey. In that time we live on the ship with the crew, finding out more about them and their lives, as Rosemary does.

We see all the interactions, conversations and complications of being in such an enclosed space for such a long time. We find ourselves in danger, and experience some romance. There is black market trading and even a long awaited family reunion. Several stops on different planets to meet people or get supplies (not that these ever go to plan) and everything a good opera needs. Plus... it's in space! You really don't realise how much you need it till you have it in your hands and you are falling in love with the story and the characters.

Here we have some artwork that includes all of our amazing crew mates. Roll-call time: left to right we have;
Jenks - an engineer with a slight attitude when you ask about his height. He works closely with the ships A.I., Lovey, and has a heart of pure gold. Lovey is not seen here, but she's the ships on board A.I. who does everything from patching calls through to other parts of the ship, and doing system checks at the speed of light, or even giving emotional support when her crew needs some.
Kizzy - an absolutely delightful ball of energy who keeps the ship running as the other engineer. I fell in love with her character as soon as she was introduced.
Dr. Chef - a Grum who is your on board doctor and chef. He has a backstory that will explain his name, if you are patient enough to wait for it (and, boy what a story it is!)
Our main girl Rosemary - with a bit of a backstory of her own. She understands a lot of languages and can muddle her way through most conversations. It's because of this attribute that she was hired as Ashby's assistant to help with paperwork and planetary communications. I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about her to begin with, but I grew to love and understand her over the course of the book.
Cap Ashby - he has all the hard decisions to make and drinks far to much coffee. He reminds me so much of Captain America, with his ideals and love for his crew.
Sissix - an Aandrisk and the pilot of the ship. She also happens to be a complete cinnamon roll. She is probably my favourite character and has such an interesting storyline.
Corbin - the ships Algaeist (fuel tech). He has a bit of a social problem, as he doesn't like others and keeps himself to himself. Corbin's story line is probably the one I had the most trouble getting my head around, but maybe that's because we don't really see all that much of him.
Last, but by no means least, Ohan Sianat Pair - the navigator of the Wayfarer. They help Sissix guide the Wayfarer though Space when punching holes to make roads. Ohan keeps to themselves. Though they loves the crew, they don't really know how to show it.
When reading this book there are so many things to keep track of; all the names, planets, civilisations, political parties, races and belief systems. Every time something was added I was shocked at how in depth Becky Chambers was going. Space opera, indeed! My mind was thoroughly blown by the time I reached the end.

How someone can build; not just a world, but a literally universe with so many in-depth characters, and planets. So many times we visited a place or relived memories with characters that might normally take a whole book of its own to set up. Chambers has a unique way of writing that gives you information, but without giving you a headache from the info dump. I don't think I will ever get over the amount of detail we get about everyone's lives and back stories. There is so much to learn, so I just kept wanting more. I can't really go into detail about it due to spoilers, however I will talk about my favourite characters and storylines.

The stand outs for me are clear, ALL OF THEM. No, seriously... ALL of them. They are all such different characters and every single one of them is written beautifully. There  is a stand out storyline for me though. Sissix is such a beautiful Aandrisk, and her home planet intrigues me so much. The arc about Sissix's family on Hashkath (her home planet) and her crew members was not something I was expecting. Her journey, making her able to be herself with the people she cares about is truly an emotional roller-coaster that I didn't realise I was even on, until I was squealing with delight and far too invested. I adored everything about Sissix.

I truly recommend this book to anyone who loves drama, or space, or amazing writing and great characters. Anyone who likes breaking the mold or not living up to stereotypical cliches should definitely check this one out.

You won't regret it, that much I can guarantee.


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