Monday, September 5, 2016

Book Review:

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

by

Becky Chambers

Genre: Science fiction
Rating: A
Year published: 2014
Date finished: September 4, 2016

On the cover of The Long Way to a Small Planet there is a two word quote from Ann Leckie (author of Ancillary Justice and other books) it says
 Great fun!
Indeed it is. I might describe this book as good new-fashioned space opera. I know, the phrase is good old-fashioned XXXX but this book isn't old fashioned at all.  The protagonist has run away from home (old) but .... is female (newish) and is an adult (now that's different!).  She joins a spaceship crew (kind of old) but ... the crew is multi-species (new) and the aliens are interesting!


The spaceship is called Wayfarer and it makes tunnels in space to allow interplanetary travel.  The captain is Ashby Santoso. He's human and is a good man. He's perhaps the most (or only) stereotypical character in the book. His technicians are Kizzy - an irrepressible woman who seems like a teenager - and Jenks - an adult human who is very, very short and is in love with Lovelace who is the ship's computer. The doctor and chef is known as Dr. Chef because his real name is a huge stream of music that is possible because his species has multiple throats. The pilot, Sissix, is reptilian.

There are lots of aliens and, unlike old-fashioned space opera, they don't fall into "evil" and "good" - they are all complex. The plot is pretty straightforward, it's well done and keeps the pages turning, but it's the characters that really kept me interested.

There are some attempts at higher level meaning in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and these aren't bad, but the author is at her best when she sticks to the fun and the story. I am glad that The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the first book in a series and amazed that it is the first novel by Becky Chambers. She funded the novel via Kickstarter. She lives in California with her spouse.  Her Twitter handle is  @beckysaysrawr .
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7 comments:

  1. I love that the ship's computer is Lovelace. Is the AI female (for Ada)? I know that may not apply (being an artificial intelligence), but a same-gender romance would be a nice touch.

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    1. Yes, the AI is presented as female, but I don't think they mention Ada. They call her Lovey.

      There are some same-sex relationships in the book, but not this one.

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    2. Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, mathematician and early computer programmer.

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  2. And the computer language Ada was named after her.

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  3. And the computer language Ada was named after her.

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  4. I think the book does a decent job of presenting diversity in a good way. Did you catch that even the aliens are neurodiverse? This sure looks like a description of a autistic (or at least roughly similar) Aandrisk to me:

    “No,” Sissix said. “It’s because she can’t socialize well.” “She’s shy?” Rosemary asked. “She’s a rashek. There’s not a word for it in Klip. She’s got a disorder that makes it difficult for her to interact with others. She has trouble understanding other people’s intentions. And she speaks oddly, that much was obvious when I first approached her. I offered to couple with her, but she couldn’t quite bring herself around to that. So, yes, she’s shy, but she also has a hard time figuring other people out.

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