Book Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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Hold on to your hats. I'm in love with another series.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one for lovers of complex characters with deeply-explored backstories, contemporary science fiction that deals with time-and-space travel, and a universe and its inhabitants that you can feel completely at home with.

In the first volume of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series, we're introduced to Rosemary, the new clerk for the ship The Wayfarer and its eclectic crew, in a universe where Earth is a far-off memory, and people are travelling via interstellar tunnels. Rosemary herself is from Mars, and harbouring some personal secrets she'd rather leave behind.

Aboard the ship we have an adorable AI (Lovelace), two energetic techs (Kizzy and Jenks), a strong and sassy pilot (Sissix), a grumbly scientist (Corbin), the mysterious navigator (Ohan), a captain always striving for something more (Ashby), and the lovable doctor-cum-chef (Dr Cook). They all have different backgrounds, covering different species from different planets, and that's the number one thing this book does best. The diversity of the crew is something to be marveled at, and really is the driving force of this novel. Rosemary serves as the perfect protagonist, aware of her own biases as she meets new friends, and comments to herself when she finds an assumption or judgement being made. One example is that she never assumes the gender of any of the new species she meets, using the gender neutral term 'xe' in such a casual way that it doesn't seem like anything but the norm. Another is that other characters are from completely different species' to the ones she's used to, so they naturally have very different ways of doing things, for example 'coupling' (mating), which Sissix does in a much more open, and unashamed way than Rosemary is used to. Through the book we experience her thoughts on this and how her attitude towards this changes as she realises her way of living is not the only one, and looks toward everything with such acceptance and openness. It really is such a refreshing perspective to read.

Although the novel does have a clear storyline (The Wayfarer is a tunneling vessel and is called upon to create a tunnel between two parts of space, one previously separated from the rest of the universe not just by distance, but also by their controversial beliefs and attitude), we spend the majority of the time learning about these characters and witnessing their interactions. It's like being introduced to a new family, and I came away from this book desperately missing the world I'd been welcomed in to, and the characters that inhabit it. 

I saw someone post on Goodreads that re-reading this book for them was like coming home and had become a comfort read. I think I can now safely say the exact same thing.

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