The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1) – Becky Chambers

The truth is, Rosemary, that you are capable of anything. Good or bad. You always have been, and you always will be. Given the right push, you, too, could do horrible things. That darkness exists within all of us. You think every soldier who picked up a cutter gun was a bad person? No. She was just doing what the soldier next to her was doing, who was doing what the soldier next to her was doing, and so on and so on. And I bet most of them — not all, but most — who made it through the war spent a long time after trying to understand what they’d done. Wondering how they ever could have done it in the first place. Wondering when killing became so comfortable.

This is the story of a motley crew, specialized in building “tunnels”, the highways of space and their adventures and individual stories. It is feel good science fiction, where bad events happen and there are bad people, but generally things are going well, there is relative stability and a place for everyone, good or bad.

The world building and character creation are the hallmarks of this novel. The world created makes sense and has enormous depth, the author cleverly staying away from introducing more complex concepts that could trigger deep changes in the society. The characters are each followed and given backstories, motivations and clear roles.

The crew is composed of nine entities: captain Ashby Santoso, a human who is keeping others in check; Dr Chef – an alien, both cook and medic, with little ambition other than to please others; Kizzy Shao – human female, the ship’s mechanic and an explosion of energy and words; Jenks – human dwarf, the software expert, literally in love with the ship’s AI; Sissix – an alien part of a species promiscuous by design, ship’s pilot; Artis Corbin – human male, responsible for life systems support and aloof guy; Lovelace – ship’s advanced and sentient AI; Ohan – alien, ship’s navigator, able to calculate faster than AI by plot armour; and Rosemary Harper – human female, and main protagonist, a runner because of her father shameful acts.

Social diversity is the theme of the book: a world less sexist, transphobic and xenophobic. It is so nice that the book feels almost like a young adult novel, with malice in few quantities; a very sugar sweet world.

Despite the relative lack of action and more often than not romantic character building, the book is quite engaging and creates memorable, unique protagonists. It is one of those books that you either love or drop midway. The sequel of the book, A Closed and Common Orbit, was even highly regarded, finalist for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Interestingly, the book is a kind of reflection of its real life origins, being initially self-published via a Kickstarter campaign, where about 50 people sponsored the author to continue writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.