The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the 2014 debut science fiction novel by Becky Chambers, set in her fictional universe the Galactic Commons. Chambers originally self-published it via a Kickstarter campaign; it was subsequently re-published by Hodder & Stoughton.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Fleeing her old life, Rosemary Harper joins the multi-species crew of the Wayfarer as a file clerk, and follows them on their various missions throughout the galaxy.

Characters[edit]

  • Rosemary Harper – A martian born human, she leaves her home planet to join the crew of the tunneling ship, the Wayfarer, where she works as the ship's clerk, whilst struggling to cover up her past.
  • Ashby Santoso – The captain of the Wayfarer who grew up on the Exodus Fleet. Familiar with space-bound life, he keeps the rest of the crew in check.
  • Dr Chef – A Grum, so named as he is both the doctor and chef on board the Wayfarer.
  • Kizzy Shao – One of two of the Wayfarer's technicians. She often has to be stopped from talking, for fear that she'll say something that could leave parts of the Wayfarer spread across a few solar systems.
  • Jenks – One of the Wayfarer's techs along with Kizzy. Shorter than most people in the Galactic Commons, but chooses not to get this changed.
  • Sissix – An Aandrisk, and pilot of the Wayfarer. When she isn't flying the ship, she seems to spend the rest of her time arguing with Corbin.
  • Corbin – Human, and the ship's algaeist. With a short temper, and not as friendly as the rest of the crew, he prefers not to leave the algae labs where he grows the Wayfarer's fuel.
  • Lovelace – Referred to by the crew as Lovey, Lovelace is the Wayfarer's onboard AI who runs the processes on the ship and helps during communications.
  • Ohan - Sianat Pair, The ship's Navigator, they are able to understand the complexities of the sublayer and direct Sissix on where to go, they keep to themself.

Reception[edit]

It was shortlisted for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award,[2] and earned Chambers a nomination for the British Fantasy Awards' 2016 "Sydney James Bounds Award for Best Newcomer".[3] It was the first self-published novel to be shortlisted for the Kitschies Golden Tentacle for Best Debut Novel.[4]

The Guardian called it "a quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism".[5] Io9 considered it to be "exciting, adventurous, and ... cozy", and comparable to "the best space opera universes".[1]

Adam Roberts felt that it was "a huge amount of space-opera-y fun, with some interestingly nuanced perspectives on gender woven into the whole",[4] while James Nicoll observed that although the setting was evocative of the Traveller roleplaying game, he was "more strongly reminded of James Tiptree, Jr.'s short story “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side” … that is, if James Tiptree, Jr. instead of being relentlessly, inexorably depressing, had been a cheerful optimist."[6] Strange Horizons' Linda Wilson commended Chambers for portraying naturalistic conversation and exposition, and for the relationships between characters.[7]

At the Financial Times, James Lovegrove described it as "SF for the Tumblr generation, a feel-good tale of non-conformity, gender fluidity, multiculturalism and unorthodox sexual relationships", and "perfectly pleasant", but faulted it for "somewhat lacking ... dramatic tension".[8] Similarly, Locus's Adrienne Martini stated that although the novel's opening was "catnip for space opera fans", and although she felt that readers will "love these characters and the exquisitely developed universe they inhabit", ultimately "nothing much happens" until the last 40 pages; Martini emphasized, however, that the novel is worth reading because of its characters and worldbuilding.[9] At Tor.com, Niall Alexander noted that although it is not a "balls-to-the-wall blockbuster", and although it has a "simplistic plot (that) can't compete with either the depth and complexity of Chambers' cast of characters or the sense of wonder suggested by her stellar setting," it is nonetheless a "delight" and a "genuine joy"; ultimately, Alexander concluded, the novel "isn't really about the eponymous angry planet—it's about the long way there."[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet Is This Year’s Most Delightful Space Opera, by Andrew Liptak, at Io9; published September 12, 2015; retrieved July 6, 2017
  2. ^ Award Shortlists, at ClarkeAward.com; retrieved July 6, 2017
  3. ^ Announcing the British Fantasy Awards 2016 Nominees, by Lee Harris, at Tor.com; published June 7, 2016; retrieved July 6, 2017
  4. ^ a b Self-published sci-fi debut kickstarts on to Kitschies shortlist, by Alison Flood, at the Guardian; published February 13, 2015; retrieved July 6, 2017
  5. ^ The best recent science fiction novels – review roundup, by Eric Brown; at the Guardian; published July 31, 2015; retrieved July 6, 2017
  6. ^ Not quite the Traveller novel I was expecting, by James Nicoll, at James Nicoll Reviews; published February 1, 2015; retrieved July 6, 2017
  7. ^ The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, reviewed by Linda Wilson, at Strange Horizons; published June 2, 2016; retrieved July 6, 2017
  8. ^ ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet', by Becky Chambers, reviewed by James Lovegrove, at the Financial Times; published October 2, 2015; retrieved July 6, 2017
  9. ^ Adrienne Martini reviews Becky Chambers, by Adrienne Martini, at Locus Online; published March 12, 2016; retrieved July 6, 2017
  10. ^ The Joy of the Journey: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, reviewed by Niall Alexander, at Tor.com; first published March 17, 2015; republished July 5, 2016; retrieved July 6, 2017