The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Genre: Science Fiction
Spoiler alert: I loved this book. We're talking about devoured every page can't wait to get the sequel type of love here. I went into the book with only the barest idea of the plot-- some woman hiding her identity gets onto a some type of spaceship. For me that's all I need to know. Often times summaries give away all the fun plot twists and rob me of the fun of finding things out as I go along.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is an inventive sci-fi novel that manages to create the feeling of an expansive universe, of which the novel comprises only a small corner. I love when novels can set up such a fully fleshed out world. The author had thought of complexities of inter-species interactions that many authors gloss over. Space is complex-- miscommunication would be often and with deadly consequences. Not every species shows love or respect the same way, not every species has the same familial expectations and often times the aliens in novels are close approximations with humans with only a few features changed. The complexity of different cultures that evolved on different planets is something this novel excelled at.
The plot doesn't have a racing tempo but the tempo fits the (no spoiler alert here) long journey the ship is on. Interspersed with the narrative are other types of communication-- meeting notes or personal logs or chapters from textbooks. One of the things I'm passionate about is using transmedia in modern story telling-- I'll have to devote an entire post to the novel transmedia techniques used in the Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a modern vlog-style version of Pride and Prejudice. Anyway! The point is print novels are really limited in their transmedia abilities, so I love when a traditional narrative is augmented by additional methods of communication.
I suppose I should address the things I wasn't so in love with-- because they did exist, even if they are far outweighed by the things I loved. The novel handles subplots with variable success. Something I expected to be a major plot point slid into a subplot and actually dwindled out, with only sporadic references to resolve the issue.
The characters are lovable and complex. I loved how different the captain was from a lot of captains-- more passive than aggressive more concerned about his crew members than his image. I feel like the author jumped around a tad bit too much in terms of character development. It would have perhaps been better to focus on one character for a bit longer and not jump around so much.
But all in all I recommend this novel whole heatedly to anyone who will listen. It was a fun read that never dragged and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't wait to pick up the sequel at my local library.
What about you? Have you ever read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet? What sci-fic novels do you love? Let me know!