***** Review of “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” by Becky Chambers


Join the multi-species crew of the tunneling ship, Wayfarer, for a wild ride through intergalactic space.

This story started out a bit slowly, but when all was said and done, I absolutely loved this delightful spaceopera.  If a book can make me both laugh and cry, plus keep me entertained inbetween, it will invariably earn five stars.  I would actually give this one more, if it were possible. It has definitely earned placement on my list of favorites.

The story is character driven and thus maintains a steady pace as you come to know each of the characters that comprise the crew of the Wayfarer. If  you’re looking for a fast pace, nail biting suspense, and unending action, then you’ll probably be disappointed. This is not to say there aren’t a few exciting scenes, because there are, but much of the suspense is more subtle. If you want to be sucked into a story so you feel as if you’re living it, then you’ll not be disappointed.

Each crew member is not only a distinct individual, but many represent an entirely different species whose appearance, behavior, quirks and cultures were exceptionally well-developed. Indeed, I felt as if I were a member of this diverse crew, observing the relationships and sometimes culture clashes between them, as I have done in the workplace. (I swear some of the people I worked with at NASA were a different species.) Those you spend the day with at work often become family and, of course, onboard a space vessel where you’re together 24/7, this will be even more pronounced.

The author captured this feeling of comraderie between coworkers, some friends, some not, in a detailed, often heart-warming manner. You felt as if you knew each one, their individual personality and secrets gradually coming out as the story progressed. Their cultures and backgrounds were developed in a fascinating and imaginative way, including unique family structures right down to physical issues such as the discomfort of molting.

A major component of any workplace is its environment and the technical aspects of maintaining an aging spaceship as well as its function, to drill wormholes to connect different parts of the Universe, were addressed in a convincing as well as feasible manner. I’m quite particular about the technical side of science fiction and feel strongly that speculation into advanced technologies needs to be believable. It should not violate the known laws of physics, even if the author speculates on those we haven’t yet discovered. This was done in an outstanding manner that never jerked me out of the story as some have when they describe situations that were totally impossible, such as F-15s operating in the space environment. Such a faux pas in a story makes me growl.

I find such mistakes nothing short of sloppy writing at its worst. It’s not that hard to do a little research on Wikipedia and, when you get beyond your level of expertise or comprehension, that’s where experts and beta readers come in. Accuracy enhances a story and adds to its credibility, which even stories in the fantasy genre need to maintain, and often provides additional ideas for plot twists. As far as new technologies are concerned, it’s better to not explain how it works at all, rather than get it entirely wrong or inconceivable. This story handled that aspect beautifully as well.

By the time I finished this book I felt as if I’d done a tour onboard the Wayfarer. I was emotionally invested in its crew and comfortable with its setting. In some respects, the sense of place reminded me of the Alien movies, though without the gore, which was replaced with such things as bureaucratic response coming at glacial speeds, which can be even more frightening.

If you’d like to immerse yourself in the future and get some idea what it might be to work on a spaceship, day in, day out, and mingle with those of not only other races but other species, then I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I look forward to its sequel with great anticipation.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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