books

Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

11/12/2016

This book is one of the most enticing, comforting and realistic books I’ve ever read and would recommend it to anyone. You don’t need to be a sci-fi fan to love this book – it has some of the best world building and character development in modern literature.

Synopsis:

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.

Review:

I’ve always been someone who has connected with books, there’s no denying that. For years, books have been my escape, my wanderlust, but I’m only just discovering the books I relate to the most. Recently I found my love for broadening my reading from just dystopia, and in doing so I found how dystopia really is in most books (at least pretty much all sci-fi and fantasy ones ). In finding this, I’ve discovered an abundance of new authors and favourite books, with Becky Chambers and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet making it’s way to the top of the pile. 

Most of the time I read books that are fast paced and have a lot of big events happening in them. I do like this, but I much prefer stories which are more personal, less about saving the world, and more about building a world and creating incredible characters, which this book most certainly did. Becky Chambers focussed on telling us the stories of individuals, and building a world which felt so incredibly real to me. It’s not often in a book where you become so attached to the world that you start to think it’s actually real, and as bizarre as this might sound to non readers, I did start to think the world in TLWTASAP was real. 

Culture is a hard thing to get across in a book (especially in a YA book) and is even harder when the culture (or cultures as is the case with this) you’re trying to get across is made up. In a way I don’t think I’ll ever quite grasp, Becky Chambers, the miracle worker that she is, managed this with cherries on top. I don’t know how many species she created for this book, but there are A LOT, and they aren’t half hearted creations either. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much detail and accuracy put into this kind of thing before, but her hard work definitely paid off because this book is a masterpiece. I truly felt like this universe of beings was alive above my head, and it’s sad to think it’s not real.

Interestingly, lots of time was skipped in the book which actually worked much better than I would have expected, as it meant it cut out needless bits of information, and only kept what mattered to the story. I thought this would have made it more fast paced as it just left the main points of the story, but it still maintained the slow momentum which built up, something I’m extremely glad it retained because it’s one of the winning points of the book to me. Even though it cut lots of unnecessary bits out, it still kept lots of small moments, which helped so much with the world building and character development. It wasn’t slow paced, but it kept everything very small and close, and really reigned in on the personal stories, which made it feel as though I’d dipped into the world, rather than having everything explained. 

One of my biggest pet hates in books is when the main characters start to describe everything about the world in the opening chapter. It instantly rings alarm bells in my mind, because it isn’t a creative way of world building, and it sounds extremely unnatural coming from a character; I don’t know anyone in real life who describes things like “humans used to be the main species, but after the huge war that killed 7,0000000000 people, now 1576 different species inhabit the universe…..” need I go on? Luckily, TLWTASAP did NOT do this in the slightest. Everything was so subtly embedded the whole way through, from the way a species communicates with each other and the colours a certain species turns when it feels emotion, all the way to what happened to the humans, and the state of the society now. 

There have been copious amounts of cool friendship groups in books, but none quite like that upon the Wayfarer. I felt desperately in need to be part of that group; everyone was so cool, but not in an obnoxious, superior way – they were cool because every one of them were individuals who were outsiders of their individual societies, but are some of the most original, kindest characters ever created. I don’t think I’ll ever forget these characters, and can feel myself going back to them when I’m in need of comfort. 

This is one of my favourite books I’ve read, and couldn’t recommend it more.

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