The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers | Book Review

Sunday 3 November 2019

If you’re a site regular or you’ve listened to Future Flicks before then you’ll know I love me some sci-fi. I grew up with science fiction. My dad made me a Trekkie at an early age (Picard will always be my number one captain) and of course, my parents introduced me to Star Wars like any good parent should. I’m pretty sure it’s a form of abuse not to introduce your kids to the galaxy far, far away. Sci-fi is a very popular genre for books and there is a lot to wade through. There’s the good, the bad, and the mediocre at best. But once in a while a true gem comes out. A truly great book that captures the spirit of science fiction at its best. Sometimes they become runaway hits like The Martian and sometimes they become the book version of a cult classic. This is one of those books. This is my review for The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This book slipped past me. I took no notice of it’s release and it was out for four years before I picked it up. That should not have been the case. I’m not chastising myself for anything here. I’m saying that it’s unfortunate that this gem didn’t get into my hands sooner. If you read a lot, or are even just familiar with books enough, you should know the basic “must reads” of the Sci-Fi world. These are books that tend to break through genre lines. Books like Ender’s Game1984, H.G. Wells books, and modern books like The Martian. But The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (which I’ll shorten to “Small Angry Planet”) only comes to mind for a select few and my goal today is to help increase that number, even if only one of you decides to pick up this book.
Let’s talk about the basics of the plot, shall we? Imagine your typical ragtag ship crew. Think Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, or the group from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The book starts out following Rosemary Harper, a woman trying to escape her past, who gets a job on a wormhole tunneling ship. Once on board she gets to know the colorful crew including the reptilian pilot Sissix, the friendly but slightly crazy engineers Kizzy and Jenks, and the hot tempered but mostly kind captain Ashby. The crew gets the chance of a lifetime when they’re asked to do their biggest tunneling job yet, which could either kill them all, or make them outrageously wealthy.
The plot sounds basic but it’s hard to get into the wonderful intricacies of the book without either major spoilers or a synopsis longer than iTunes terms of service. Small Angry Planet has amazing depth and by the end of the book I cared for each of the nine important characters. While the book is a novel, it’s broken down between individual stories from various characters. So while the main plot stays unbroken, each character has their time to shine and they’re given that time in a very fluid manner which never feels forced or out of place. I view this book as a novel with the spirit of a shot story collection. Each characters story arch is very clear though the main story keeps going at an even pace. You’ll never forget what the main plot is. The characters stay important too. Even when Kizzy’s big story is over, that doesn’t mean we’re finished with her. The importance of the characters stays the same. The only thing that changes is who the magnifying glass is turned on.
Small Angry Planet also tackles some very modern and very important topics like politics and gender issues. But don’t let that scare you off if you’re not in the mood for a preachy character study. This book never jumps on a soapbox and delivers holier-than-thou attitude while spinning a story that seems tailored to spearhead hot button issues. These current and important topics are there, they present themselves, and then they move on. This isn’t the kind of book that you won’t enjoy if you don’t agree with their stance on the topics. Unless you’re super stubborn and refuse to read anything outside of your beliefs, you should be fine. Democrat? Republican? Neither? It doesn’t matter. There’s no agenda in this story. It’s just a well written and well thought out book about a mix matched crew on a ship going to do a job to make all their dreams come true.
This is the first book in the Wayfarers series but if you’re not looking for a full series to read, Small Angry Planet does stand on it’s own. If you wanted to, you could pick up the next two books, but if you’d rather not, for some weird reason, there’s no cliffhanger which would commit you to the rest of the books. But even though the book can stand on it’s own, it doesn’t mean you can just pick up the two sequels. While you may enjoy and understand A Closed and Common Orbit or Record of a Spaceborn Few you’d like them a lot more after reading Small Angry Planet.
You may know someone who’s stuffy about books and only reads “literature” and easily disregards “genre” books. Until that person pulls the War and Peace sized stick out of their butt, this would be a great middle ground book. While Small Angry Planet may be true sci-fi, it isn’t so heavy with it that it limits the potential audience. Whatever stupid reason someone may have to hate sci-fi, this book is character driven enough to be easily enjoyed by most people. It may not be their favorite book, but I believe it’s good enough to make even the stuffiest of a-holes admit that maybe genre fiction isn’t all that bad.
I’ve read a lot of books this year. So far the count is at 49 (57 if you include graphic novels). I’ve also read a lot of really good books this year and Small Angry Planet is easily in my top 5. Maybe I should to a best books I’ve read in 2018 blog after the New Year. Yeah, that sounds good. But as for now, let me wrap this review up.
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet deserves far more love than it gets. I has a respectable 4.17 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, but in my opinion, that’s too low. Nothing less than 5 stars for this wonderfully thought out, well written, and always engaging science fiction book which should already be a modern classic. If you like reading, this is the book for you. If you like sci-fi, this is the book for you. If you like both, pick this up right now.
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet gets an 11 out of 11

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