Book Review

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

What meager resources they have to offer us are not worth the risk posed by allowing such an unstable element into our shared space. The GC has already spent too much on helping this minor species to escape the hardships they brought upon themselves. I ask you, what benefit is there in making Humans one of us? If not resources, or knowledge, or military strength… then what?

Even though the above quote from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is what struck me the most while reading, it is so very much not reflective of the book. As much as I like intricate, deep and meaningful stories which leave me pondering life, the universe and everything, this time around I wanted to immerse myself into something more like Life, the Universe and Everything; something more light-hearted.

Last week someone told me that while us humans might consider an armchair as a means to sit back and relax in, termites might see it as breakfast. And so while current affairs are still weighing me down, I am considering that maybe it is time for me to change my perspective. It is true, I can no longer count the times I have been pointed fingers at for being too negative. Enter the first book in the Wayfarer series. Despite it not being action-packed, Becky Chambers offers a heartwarming and character-driven story, all the while still contemplating what it means to exist and be part of the screwed up species humankind really is. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a well-written and easy read, with interesting and carefully thought out alien species and AI. Even without being blown away, the world-building did feel epic and without intricacies that might get in the way of smooth immersion.

A few times throughout the book, I still caught myself thinking in quite a narrow-minded way and righteously felt called out by Chambers. But while the story never bored me—probably because I really tried to maintain a positive attitude—something was missing. The characters felt a little too stereotypical and I remember thinking through the first twenty pages that if I were to be a writer, it would have been too mundane for me. Then again, I am not a writer. I struggled especially with the character Kizzy. Bubbly and peppy as she is, I was almost always able to predict how she was going to react or reply to the situation at hand and even though she made me laugh out loud, it bothered me. I found the most interesting character to be Ashby who, as the captain of the Wayfarer, was able to be both a leader and a friend to his crew when needed.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet taught me a few things about myself, which I am grateful for, and it was an amusing and quick-fix read, somewhat similar to watching a romantic comedy in a sci-fi setting. But it left me thirsty for a deeper delve into the world Chambers created; the potential is there.

“Want and intelligence,” the historian had written, “is a dangerous combination.”

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