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The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – A Fantabulous Book of Co-existing in Diversity

5th July, 2016

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

The Wayfarer is a small spaceship captained by Ashby and fueled by algae. It specializes in punching holes through sublayers of galaxy for transport paths between planets. Their new project is to punch a hole for possible alliance with a hostile species at the edge of Galaxy. And onward is a journey to an angry planet inhabited by the war-loving clans of the Toremi, and a journey of self discovery.

I bought the book without reading the blurb because of consistently seeing 5 star reviews for the book. I wasn’t sure I would like the book as I started reading since science fiction is not something that I usually pick. But this is more like a fun story of love and friendship in a world inhabited by different species, not just humans. Save for the setting of the story being a space ship, I don’t see why it should be categorized as science fiction.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK ? (right now!) 

First let me make clear what NOT to expect:

  1. An action packed novel.
    No, Its not.
  2.  Science fiction in all its glory with lots of scientific terms.
    No, Its not.

And you should read this. Here’s why (apart from the fact that it was self-published at first, gathered a HUGE following, later bagged a book deal, got shortlisted for many awards and is fantabulous).

1. THE UNIVERSE :

Spaceships. Other planets. Space markets – Brilliant. Original. Enough said.

2. THE STORY OF MANKIND :

Humankind is one of the lower species (Surprise!). There are two kinds of humans – the nomadic Exodans who had left the solar system and roam around in spaceships;  and Solans, who made their home on Mars.

3. CHARACTERS :

There are humans; reptilian Aandrisks, graceful fighters called Aeluons, wealthy Harmagins and Artificial Intelligence systems. On board the Wayfarer we have Ashby, the Exodan Captain, Rosemary, a girl on the run from Mars with a secret; Sissix, an Aandrisk pilot; Kizzy and Jenks who are the technicians; Lovey, the artificial intelligence system, Dr. Chef a healer cum cook; Corbain, the scientist who supervises the algae for fuel and Ohan, the reclusive Sianat Pair who are (yep! Plural) the Navigator (yep! Singular) of the ship.

Now, if that does not convince you…

Each character gets a good amount of time for xe’s (the book’s way of addressing a character whose gender is unknown) own story.

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

4. POLITICS :

The Galactic Commons are made up of a number of different species of all shapes and sizes, like a fictional United Nations. The more I read the more I felt how close to real life politics it seemed to be.

5. GENDER :

For Dr. Chef, gender changes with age. The Sianat pair are always addressed as ‘they’.

6. DIVERSITY :

The cultural norms of different species are very very different from ours- some simpler and some complex. Aandrisks are most complex having three families- birth family, hatch family and feather family, each with its different dynamics.

The book puts forward the message of co-existence. For eg: the Aandrisks do not wear clothes. But Sissix does, inorder to not make the humans aboard uncomfortable.

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

7. RACISM :

There are very few members of each species left and the only way life can go forward is if they co-exist. Still there are strands of racism that creep in.

8. THEMES :

I LOVE how wonderfully Chambers has beaded the themes, well spread out and not crammed.  There are sections on cloning, sexuality across gender (and species), artificial intelligence, euthanasia, family bonds, the right to choose how you live, warfare and blind following of dogmas. The book also gives the message of harmonious co-existence amidst diversity.

MORE THOUGHTS 

I felt the book was less plot driven and more character centric with a fabulous world building. The journey to the small angry planet is only a spine on which Chambers has created a wonderful and original world. I kept relating it to the present world scenario, so perhaps this is a book that is much beyond “just a story”. The title is apt to the story line. (It is a lo000ng journey)

Warning : It took me a few chapters to get into the book. When I started reading I did think the book is not worth the hype. But keep reading. It has a leisurely pacing as opposed to the fast story line one would expect from the blurb.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I don’t know how to put into words why. There is A LOT to talk about this book. I am definitely looking forward to the next book.

Read it.

Title : The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Author : Becky Chambers
Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton
Published : 2015 (originally in 2014)
Language : English
Pages : 404
Rating : 4.5/5

Let's discuss

Have you read this book? If not, will you try out this novel of different species co existing in a future world and humans roaming around in space ships? 

If you have, what did you think of it? Did you like the complex cultural dynamics of different species? Do you consider Lovey as a ‘who’ or ‘what’? Which love story did you like the best? Did you feel the story seemed realistic in spite of the fantastical nature of the characters? Keep talking! I am listening.

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Add to your Goodreads shelf

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)

About the Author

Becky has a background in performing arts, and grew up in a family heavily involved in space science. She has worked as a technical writer, a bartender, and a production assistant. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is her first novel. She is working on a stand-alone sequel named A Closed and Common Orbit.

This Post Has 41 Comments
  1. The worldbuilding for this sounds amazing with so many different species and their separate cultures. And it’s always interesting to read a sci-fi novel that isn’t also an action-adventure. There seems to be a more contemplative tone so I’m not surprised that this is more character centric

    1. Yes, exactly. I might even call it literary fiction. In fact it can be literary fiction if all the species were humans. It is that kind of a book. It is a very entertaining read. So let me know if you pick it up

  2. THIS HAS BEEN ON MY TBR LIST FOR SO. STINKING. LONG. And I still have not read it, because my library is awful and my bookstore never has it. I might need to order it off of Amazon because pretty much everyone I talk to loves it. And also that cover. It’s gorgeous.

    1. I am no sci-fi buff either. I would classify this as literary fiction or young adult if I had a choice. If we disregard the fact that there are different species involved, it reads like a normal good story of friendship. Or maybe fantasy? Because The world building is so great! ( Now I get it, it fits into so many genres so the easiest way out was to classify as science fiction).

      I hope you pick it up. Will look forward to your thoughts on it!!

  3. I love books with elaborate world building. That, and the fact that you, who do not usually read sci Fi enjoyed this book, is encouraging. It sounds like a wonderful read.

    1. It is a great read. I felt it is like a literary fiction story. I think it was named science fiction because there is a spaceship and different galaxies and a variety of species in it. I enjoyed the subtle messages too, about co existence and acceptance.

    1. I really LOVED this book. I am sure you will too. But I think it is definitely not sci-fiction. Maybe some new genre like literary science fiction? Science is very limited in the book, just that the setting is in a spaceship.

      And the world building is AMAZING. So original and entertaining. Hope you will get your hands on a copy soon.

  4. I liked this book and would totally read a sequel — the author’s so inventive, and I love that it’s basically just a road trip book but in space. The courtesy was maybe a leeeetle bit too much for me. Like I am all for characters who can be respectful of each other, but with this it felt, I dunno, like it was also meant to be instructive to the reader? Which I think I always bristle at slightly, even when the relevant lesson is one I actually agree with.

    1. Me too. I am waiting for the sequel. And I heard the sequel is a stand alone. Which is even better! Though I keep thinking how the ‘sequel’ can be a ‘standalone?’

      Which courtesy are you talking about? Sissix and Rosemary? Well, if yes, I too found it unexpected. I thought since the writer is talking about diversity and racism and all relevant topics she wanted to focus on the LGBT aspects as well.

  5. I’ve been seeing the cover of this one around the place (so pretty). It’s sounds like a fabulous read. I particularly like the idea of a character whose gender changes with age!

    1. I know!!! The cover is so gorgeous. I love it too. Yes, I found that fascinating. Changing gender with age. There are so many original elements in the book which is an added bonus.

  6. This one has been on my TBR pile for a few months as I bought it for a book club and never got to read it. I’m super keen to, though!

  7. It’s interesting that there is so little science in the book when it says in the author’s bio that she grew up in a very science-minded family. I wonder if she purposely left out terms or explaining things to gain a strict “No sci-fi” type of reader.

  8. What! This book sounds incredibly unique and I have never heard of it! I love sci-fi and this looks right up my alley. even if this one is low on the sci-fi. I especially love character-driven science fiction.
    Thanks for putting this one on my radar. 😀

    1. This is an extremely enjoyable read Naz. I can’t wait for you to read it and know what you think. There are so many themes in the novel. It is a slow start but it picks on.

  9. Character-centric? Awesome world-building? I need to read this, and sooner rather than later. 🙂

    Where did you find that Goodreads button that lets people add the book to their shelves directly from your blog post? Very useful. 😉

    1. I hope you will read it soon. It is such an enjoyable read.

      Just google for Add to my books Goodreads and it will show a GR page with the code. It will be the first or second search result

    1. I am sure you will enjoy the read. This has very less of sci fic, except for the different species in the story and that it takes on a spaceship. It is more about love and friendship.

  10. I’ve heard so many great things about this one, and now you’re recommending it, too. Will have to give it a try, I do love the sound of the worldbuilding and the gender and family dynamics. Are the characters fleshed out, too? I really need well-written complex characters in a book.

    1. The start is pretty slow Bina. When I started off I was like why was this book overhyped? But it picks up. I think Beckt Chambers was giving subtle messages about tolerance and co existence through the book. I liked that the ideas were original. You should give it a try

  11. This sounds fantastic! I love your pictures too, by the way.

    During my last year of high school I studied science fiction and I loved so much of it – less so the action-packed ones (as you say) and more the Ursula le Guin type of science fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness was absolutely incredible, and it has similar explorations of gender and politics.

    1. Thank you. Science fiction is a relatively unexplored genre for me. So I keep your recommendation in mind, especially since the books deals with heavy themes like gender and politics as well

  12. I’m so glad someone has written my thoughts on this book into a review. It is a sci-fi book simply for the world it is set in, but it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical sci-fi genre in many ways. This book is much more than arbitrary categorisation by genre. I adored it and it’s slow pace and immense world created and I am so pleased there is another book in this world being released! I loved the fact it was such a diverse book and it intelligently shone a light on racism through the various species thoughts on one another. And also the fact that it demonstrated racism was seen on all sides, it wasn’t one species which could be racist but many of them as they each tried to but their own cultural expectations and views onto another species and I could see how hard it was not to do it.

    I just loved this book and the family that formed on this ship and my only complaint is the book ended and wanted to know more of this world as there was so much potential.

    1. I am glad you think the same. If all the characters were human, then we could never have categorised it as sci fic. I feel it is literary fic set in a sci-fic world. I loved the world building and the way issues like racism were portrayed as well. I heard Book 2 is coming out soon. Hopefully it will lie upto the expectations. 🙂

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