The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Hodder & Stoughton, August 13th 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet follows Rosemary Harper and the crew of the ship The Wayfarer as they navigate their way towards war-torn space to create a wormhole, one that will leave them with enough money to buy everything they may desire.
This main plot- which ultimately takes up the last 100 pages or so- is by no means the focus of this novel, although I did love the beautiful setting and whatnot. The Long Way is primarily a character driven novel. The emotional impact this book had on me was greater than a lot of other books I’ve read. Becky Chambers just brings her characters to life in a way that makes them flawed yet significant, managing to create characters that just immediately carved a hole in my heart. Her writing is absolutely beautiful in a way that I can’t identify; she makes her characters fully fleshed out and real in a way that a lot of writers fall short of doing completely.
One of the most beautiful things about this book, about the writing and the characters, is how tragic everything is on such a small scale. There’s so much disaster surrounding them, wars and violence and death, some of them even participating in them before arriving on the ship. But they all face their smaller tragedies, experiencing sadness and pain, and these characters are made only more real by these experiences. I like books that explore smaller struggles and don’t exclude them from the story, because a lot of character development stems from watching them struggle and persevere and survive the smaller things in the context of the larger things.
Though this book isn’t one that’s centred purely around morals and teaching you things, I did take a lot from it. There’s so much exploration of gender and sexuality, of race and species and challenging people’s perception of pretty much everything, and it’s done in a way that you don’t even realise how much you’ve taken from it until the end. One of my personal favourite quotes, to do with self-acceptance, is something Dr Chef said:
“If you have a fractured bone, and I’ve broken every bone in my body, does that make your fracture go away? Does it hurt you any less, knowing that I am in more pain?[…]Feelings are relative. And at the root, they’re all the same, even if they grow from different experiences and exist on different scales.”
The fact that this book’s title and cover are also beautiful really only adds to how much I love it. There’s something so profound about the cover, the small silhouette of who I’m guessing is Rosemary, tiny in comparison to the night sky, with the compressed typography- it’s just beautiful. Literally everything about this book is beautifully profound, or profoundly beautiful. I love it, so so much.
It’s really difficult for me to write a review for this book that satisfies me. The Long Way is so unique, from both plot- you won’t find any Chosen Ones here, just people trying to live their lives in the universe- to characters, none of them the same but all coming together to create this incredibly diverse family. This is such an emotional read, and one I definitely won’t be forgetting. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone interested in science fiction and emotional, character driven novels that will have a lasting effect on you as a reader.