When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.
Floating in Space
My problem with space operas is that usually not much happens besides the characters floating through space. On that front, I felt The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet fit squarely fit that trope. Conflicts outside of the spaceship didn’t arise as often nor as intensely as I had liked, even with their unpredictable mission and the threat of war looming. The reason I enjoyed this book anyway were the characters. They were absolutely wonderful!
The crew consisted of humans, aliens, and AIs working along-side one another, while learning each others’ ways. Their characterisation was incredibly imaginative. Chambers fashioned intricate cultures for every species on board of the Wayfarer and beyond as well.
Throughout The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet social norms were examined and scrutinised. Human cultures weren’t taken for granted either — for example, one of the characters questioned why the loss of the young with potential grieved humans more than the loss of grown adults who had built a life and contributed to society.
Sci-Fi Spin on Diversity
I loved how Chambers paid so much attention to the little details as well. When species who had never met each other before, they first asked about their ways of greeting, before proceeding.
How cultures shape individuals was integral to this book, all while portraying complex individual characters who had their own backgrounds and personalities. As a result, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet beautifully portrayed how diverse people can coexist, tolerate and even appreciate one another.
Characters Before Plot
With such an extensive focus on inter-species relations, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was a predominantly character-driven book. The plot remained consistent throughout the book but sometimes faded against the characters’ personal concerns. Technology came up a fair bit too but not quite as much as in high stakes science fiction novels.