I have real trouble reviewing books that I really like, what is there to talk about if something is almost perfect?? I cannot praise The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet enough, but I’m gonna try. If you’re a fan of Firefly, Blake 7, Star Trek, Red Dwarf, Dark Matter, or any plucky friendship groups in space, this is the book for you. If you like space, science fiction, or aliens, this is the book for you. If you are capable of reading, this is the book for you. Becky Chambers is a genius, go read this book, you will not regret it.
The Long Way follows the mixed-species crew of the Wayfarer as they travel through space to create a wormhole (used for travel) to a dark, dangerous corner of the universe. There’s aliens, intergalactic politics, discussions about AI/robot rights, space travel, there’s even lesbians in space, something I didn’t know I needed until this book and now it’s my favourite thing. From now on every book loses points if there is no LGBT representation in space, I’m not sorry.
What really blew me away about The Long Way was the world building. Chambers has managed to create a beautiful, believable universe in which every single question that springs to the reader’s mind is answered whilst somehow avoiding an overwhelming info-dump. I was so drawn in to this world and felt so interested in learning more. There were nuanced differences between humans in various places around the universe, but I particularly liked that there were humans who believed that their home planet should be saved and reserved for humanity, and this ranged from extremists who abhorred all life that’s not human, to realistic scientists who are simply trying to do their best. And this distinction in one belief system in one species was mostly a throwaway comment. But it’s those little details that made the book an experience to read. Honestly, I can’t praise this book enough.
If world building isn’t really your thing (though this book will make it your thing) then read it for the characters. Each character aboard the Wayfarer is unique and each one of them has a beautiful story to tell, even if they may not all seem palatable at first (you’ll know exactly who I mean) but they are all characters worth your time. Seriously, Chambers has a gift, she’s not been twice shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for nothing.
As much as it pains me to say it, there is one little issue I had with the book. At first the dialogue struck me as a little forced, not all the way through, just a little at the start referencing mostly Kizzy the ship’s mechanic. Parts of her early dialogue were a little clunky and read almost like fanfiction. Unsurprisingly, when I listened to an interview with Chambers on the Breaking the Glass Slipper Podcast I found that The Long Way was originally self-published online and picked up by a big publisher (any budding SF writer’s dream). This explained the internet friendly dialogue to me, but honestly, there’s only a couple lines that felt a bit off kilter and I had to really dig to find that issue.
This book has become one of my absolute favourites, it’s a beautiful read and I even find myself writing with more gusto after being inspired by it. I am so excited to read A Closed and Common Orbit, the indirect sequel to The Long Way. I know it probably won’t happen but I hope Chambers is going to write more set in her wonderful world.