It was Raj who recommended this book to me and, I have to confess, I forgot about his recommendation immediately (I know, I am a bad person, I am sorry) until my father said he wanted to get me a book for my birthday and I had no idea what I wanted. Then, *ping* back came the recommendation to the front of my mind and I requested this one.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a story about a ragtag gang of misfits working on board a ship who’s job it is to build intergalactic connections using wormholes. Now, don’t worry, it’s not solid space opera sci-fi, so if that’s not your thing don’t feel like you immediately need to ignore this one and move onto the next. It’s light on hard sci-fi-ish details and heavy on building relationships, character development and drama-infused adventure.
Ashby, the ship’s captain is keen to improve the legitimacy and standing of his business in the eyes of the Galactic Confederation because that should make it easier to get better and higher paying jobs. So he hires a clerk, Rosemary, to demonstrate that he’s committed to keeping his books in order. Not long after this the team hear about a big, potentially dangerous (but supposedly not too dangerous) job and apply. Thanks in part to their new clerk, they get the job and set off on a long journey in order to get to work.
Apart from Ashby and Rosemary, who are both human, we have two human techs, Kizzy and Jenks. If you’ve seen Firefly or Serenity, I see Kizzy in particular as being a lot like the mechanic, Kaylee. Then there’s Lovey, the onboard AI, Sissix a lizard-like alien who pilots the ship and Corbin, the human who grows the algae which becomes the ship’s fuel. More strangely, there’s Ohan, an alien navigator who considers themselves to be a pair because they share their brain with a virus that allows them to understand interdimensional space. That’s about as heavy as the sci-fi gets. Lastly, there’s Dr Chef, another alien who acts both as medic and cook.
With such a range of species, cultures and personalities, it takes a little while for everyone’s story to come out and Becky Chambers introduces us gradually and masterfully to each character’s idiosyncrasies and history. As the characters build bonds between each other, so the reader finds themselves bound to the characters, the result being that by the end of the novel you kind of wish you could buy them all a pint and hang out with them.
The novel is exciting and compelling and somehow also just lovely. Perhaps because the characters are bundled together in close quarters on the ship, but at the same time floating around in a huge galaxy, it feels like a warm, cosy read – except when things are going wrong, of course. And when that happens you feel genuine concern for the team. I’ll look forward to getting my hands on the sequel.