The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

a long way to a small angry planetRosemary, trying to escape her past, joins the mixed-species crew of the Wayfarer, just as they take on a lucrative, but dangerous, job building a new hyperspace tunnel near a distant, violent planet. She’s hiding a secret, but so is nearly everyone else.

This, and the blurb on the back of the book, makes it sound like an action-packed sci-fi adventure, but it’s much more of a slow examination of how different kinds of people and races find their way together, with bits of action now and then which provide a framework. The book explores how people from vastly different cultures and races find ways to interact and work together, as well as issues around gender and sexuality. A Long Way is very optimistic, especially for sci-fi, as to what the future of human race will look like and how well different species/races accommodate each other. It sounds patronising, and I don’t mean it in a bad way, but I’d call this ‘cosy sci-fi’, in that, although some bad things happen, generally everyone is trying to do their best and get along with everyone else.

I wasn’t a fan of the writing style as it’s very exposition-y and everything is explicit. Chambers definitely tells more than she shows, and often does huge paragraphs of info-dumps. I think it would have been a better book with more editing and tightening up, and more trust that the reader can infer some of what she was trying to say. The pace also didn’t quite work. Whenever there was any tension or any problems, it would all get wrapped up very quickly and then largely forgotten about. It felt more like a television series – short episodes with a vague overarching plot.

A Long Way isn’t as good as the amount of hype around it, but it was exactly what I needed when I was feeling under the weather and, even though I didn’t like the pacing or the writing style, I’ll likely still read the sequel when it’s out later this year. Even if you don’t like sci-fi, pick this up if you’re looking for an easy, enjoyable optimistic read in which the characters make an effort, and show you how, to think and be with all kinds of people.

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