Reviewing: the long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers

If I could recommend you one book right now it would be this one, it’s fantastic. While I’m a fan of the occasional Sci-Fi show or movie, I’ve never really read any science fiction novels so when my fiancée suggested I read this one I decided I’d give it a go. She’d liked it, after all, and she has excellent taste (in both books and life partners).

The concept of the novel; that the crew of a ship has been hired to build a tunnel in space between an alliance of planets and their new addition, is secondary. The tunnel itself and how it is built is not the focus, and is dealt with excellently. Chambers manages to describe things like dental and medical bots, space travel and the building of wormholes in such a way that you can actually believe these things will work – of course space ships are powered by algae, and you can use a handful of microscopic robots to keep disease at bay – without it seeming like a how-to manual on space travel. There is no ‘and this powers this, and this is due to this law of science and thermodynamics’ involved, and yet there is a superb sense of both realism and mundanity about it all. Keeping the ship safely hurtling through space, holding a wormhole open with nets and cages, it’s all part of the job description.

The characters drive this novel, and that is my favourite aspect of it. There is a full cast of both humans, all of different origin and – startlingly – none of whom are obviously white, and fully realised non-humanoid races each with their own cultures and belief systems at odds with the human concepts of gender, sexuality, monogamy, child-rearing and survival. Beginning with it’s focus on Rosemary, a human hired to keep up the administration on the ship, on the run from a past that neither the reader nor the crew are initially privy to, the book explores each member of the crew and what led them to where they are. Isolated to their little group for long periods of time, and several of them the only member of their species aboard, the long way to a small, angry planet explores well the concepts of loneliness, independence and how a family can be something you choose and form yourself, not simply something that you have to accept.

This book is funny, it has some brilliantly memorable moments and the eclectically built ship and crew make for great entertainment, but it is also incredibly poignant. It is easier, perhaps, to explore issues close to home in a setting so far from it. Humans are a race prone to acts of greed, violence and environmental danger even once their home planet has withered away – from the attempted revival of a dead earth to weapons manufacturing, war-mongering, and the slow self-destruction of an entire species, the long way to a small, angry planet does not shy away from exploring deeper themes alongside moments of genuine kindness, affection and love.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a fantastic read with LGBT+ characters AND fantastic writing? READ THIS ONE. One of the relationships that occurs in the novel is between two women, and I mention this last for two reasons: one, because it is not the main focus of the book and so I didn’t want to make it the main focus of the review, and two, to find a wonderful book with LGBT+ characters that isn’t just labelled as LGBT+ fiction and put in the ‘different’ section of the bookshop is both rare and my absolute favourite thing. This is a book written for people who like books, who like sci-fi, it is marketed to people who like reading, not to lesbians. This, I believe, is how books should be.

This book is easily in my top five books, I absolutely adored it. So if you read this, and I hope you do, I hope you find in it some of the absolute joy that I felt reading it. Also, if you don’t like Doctor Chef we cannot be friends.

Overall rating:📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of5

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