Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

‘It’s my hope that this is a book that will make you feel good; and will give you hope about where you are and where we’re headed; and that maybe, it will make you look up every so often and think about what might be out there.’ 

– Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is an immersive and optimistic science fiction novel which does exactly that: immerse. As Becky Chambers’ debut, it was first self-published in 2014, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and later re-published in 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton, her current publisher. It is a story full of hope, exploration and appreciation of the world(s) around us. 

I began this journey through intergalactic space unaware that the focus of this multiple perspective narrative was not in fact our first encounter, Rosemary, a young human woman from Mars searching for adventure and fleeing a secret, but instead the crew of the Wayfarer, a multi-species wormhole-construction ship she boards as their new clerk.

The reader galivants through the brilliant world-building and captivating characters of Chambers’ imagination in this heart-warming study of multifaceted relationships and love. At its core are the adventures and quotidian of ‘normal people’ getting on with their lives; those usually found in background shots of famous sci-fi heroes zooming about saving the universe.

The storytelling uses the fantastical to discuss, or at least touch upon, prejudice and tolerance, violence and pacifism, ethics of cloning and the rights and autonomy of AI. Chambers’ prose is well-constructed and really carries the reader through the Wayfarer’s journey, stimulating many questions along the way. 

The author is clearly very passionate about creating a fascinating world in which gender and sexuality are not readily assumed, where the differences in needs and cultures of others are considered and understood as relative. 

Although I would have loved to experience more tension, atmosphere and depth of plot in this universe, Chambers has conjured such a wide interest in this world, our heroes’ development, and the carefully crafted alien histories, societies, politics and physiologies, that I am left keenly craving more. I look forward to jumping into the other books in this unconventional trilogy: A Closed and Common Orbit and Record of a Spaceborn Few.

This fun and wholesome book can be read as a standalone and it hits the spot as ‘nice ‘n’ spacey’ yet is equally a perfect first read for the sci-fi virgin.

By Felicity Hemming.