The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author Becky Chambers
Narrated by Rachel Dulude
Published by Tantor Media
Publication date Jul 5, 2016
Running time 14 hrs 24 min
Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks, who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
This was a cool story with a good narrator, but like a lot of created-world and imagined future (and the history of that future) it was hard to grasp the various elements of the universe: its science, peoples, planets, history, etc. via the audio media.
On the other hand it was emotionally accessible with frustration, idiocy, and recognizable personalities of all kinds. In this story humans have left the earth long ago and depending on where they ended up in the universe have also developed different ideologies regarding humanity’s place therein.
One thing that was interesting was the author’s attempts at making the cultures and people non-anthropocentric. For example, one character’s culture doesn’t regard “family” in a way that we could understand. The author does make a valiant attempt at trying to convey the complexities of cultural diversity on a rather large scale. But, in the end the problems of all species are distilled into human terms.
Of course, almost all books offer a romantic element these days and this is no exception. It does have a twist though. I thought this book brings the woes of contemporary society into relief in the way SciFi often does: diversity, religious tolerance, sexuality, understanding, environmental concerns. This is an especially important function speculative fiction but, if done poorly, it can feel preachy, naive or both. It is further complicated by whether it is terribly obvious.
This was more obvious on reflection rather than on its initial reading which probably puts it around the middle of the pack. The pace was slow with a spreading plot setting up futures for many of the characters — the next book in the series, A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT, is due out in October.
There are a lot of nods to characters and the world-building of other series (TV, Movie and written) like Star Trek and Firefly. Whether that is conscious on the author’s part I don’t know, but it is apparent she is a fan of many speculative fiction, off-world series.
Because of the world-building I think this is a good candidate for a print/audio tandem — like Amazon’s whispersync. I would listen to another book in the series as I enjoyed this one.