Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

October 20, 2016 2016 Flights of Fantasy Group Reads, 2016 Review Challenge, 4 Stars, Book Review, ebook, paperback, Science Fiction, series, slice of life, Space & Aliens 0 ★★★★

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers four-stars
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #1
Published by HARPER Voyager on July 5, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Pages: 443
Format: Paperback
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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of the best group reads I’ve had all year! I truly enjoyed this read – even though I didn’t expect to at first.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a…difficult book to categorize. When I’ve tried to explain this book to hubby, I tell him it’s “Star Trek mixed with Firefly.” When I say “Star Trek” I mean the era of Star Trek while Gene Roddenberry was still alive and the universe was filled with mostly good people. Adventure and romance awaits.

In other words “FUN!”

I really enjoyed both the writing and the characters. I LOVE the theory on the racial ambiguity of the Exodans (sp?). It fits a theory that I’ve had since HS and a phenomenon that hubby and I discuss pretty regularly. We both think that racial ambiguity will become the norm in the future – cultures and races are mixing as the world gets smaller and smaller. It just makes biological sense.

The thing I think I loved the most about the writing was the lack of info-dumping. I felt that Chambers slowly introduced me to the world instead of dropping it all on my head at one time.

I ended up reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet with two different groups at the same time. One of the discussions included quite a few people feeling that Chambers did a lot of “preaching” to her audience. After some careful thought, I can see their point but I disagree. I felt like Chambers tried to envision a [Roddenberry-esque] Universe – and having so many alien cultures working with and around each other could cause extreme friction.

We are experts of the physical galaxy. We live on terraformed worlds and in massive orbital habitats. We tunnel through the sublayer to hop between stellar systems. We escape planetary gravity with the ease of walking out the front door. But when it comes to evolution, we are hatchlings, fumbling with toys. I believe this is why many of my peers still cling to the theories of genetic material scattered by asteroids and supernovae. In many ways, the idea of a shared stock of genes drifting through the galaxy is far easier to accept than the daunting notion that none of us may ever have the intellectual capacity to understand how life truly works.
-pg 156

So – how do you create a diverse universe while still avoiding a galaxy wide war (GW1)? Sensitivity Training! One of our primary MCs – Rosemary – was a great stand-in for the reader as she (us) navigated this new world. Rosemary regularly reminded herself (and thus the reader) that she shouldn’t judge other cultures based on her own morals/culture. One great example of this is Ashby’s (the ship’s Captain) stance on weapons. Ashby is an Exodan – a descendant of a group of people who left Earth as it was dying. The Exodans all piled into a spaceship and floated the galaxy (and almost died!) until they were discovered by the Aandrisks. Due the circumstances that caused them the leave Earth, the Exodans do not believe in fighting, war or weapons. A friend of mine stated – and I agree – that Chambers managed NOT to give off a simple, preachy “war is baaad” vibe because:

Campbell seemed to try, at least with some topics, to provide different views. For instance, the Captain was very opposed to guns, sure, but Pei wasn’t, and Kizzy and Jenks seemed more open to the idea, and they had friends who made weapons who weren’t presented as bad guys or anything… so even though the Captain’s views were strong, they were balanced out by altering viewpoints from other people.
-comment from a group read

Chambers certainly had messages that she was pushing/promoting but she did seem to at least try to always have some sort of contradictory point by another character.

Getting on to the title of this book – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – I have to admit that I was…disappointed in the conclusion and the plotline dedicated to the title. The “small, angry planet” was being fought over by the Toremi – a group(race?) of people who (culturally) believed that a consensus was required to move forward with almost any decision. This caused a Toremi civil war – especially over a nearby planet. I was expecting a lot from this plot point – since it titled the book – but when we get to the Toremi and their angry planet, it…was…basically nothing. Things do happen but not a lot.

There are some additional things that happen due to the actions of the Toremi which feel like book #2, lol. View Spoiler »

All in all, I had great fun reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and I will certainly read book two in this series! THIS is the type of Space Opera I LOVE.

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