“The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet”

Becky Chambers

The first chapter sorta set me on the wrong mindset for this book; I think, actually, that’s why I bounced off it the first time I tried reading it. It feels like it’s going to be a lot grittier than the book turned out to be. Someone with Secrets, having just done Crimes to escape their Mysterious Past? That’s a very specific vibe, one that, quite frankly, feels rather generic at this point.

That isn’t what this book is.

This book is a study in characters. It’s an exploration of cultural differences on all sorts of different scales, from the ancestral privilege enjoyed by the Martian subset of humanity to the interspecies differences in what the concept of love means.

It’s about found family, and biological family, and how the former can help replace the latter, or heal the wounds imposed by them.

It’s a collection of vignettes, a journey—no, an odyssey—of over a year, the moments of excitement along the titular long way to what does turn out to be a small and angry planet.

Overall, it’s an absolutely beautiful read. I devoured it in an afternoon, and finished reading it watching the sun set and the stars come out, and that’s maybe the perfect way to have done so. It fit the flow of the story. So much of the science fiction I read is about action sequences and big things happening. ‘Ordinary people reacting to extraordinary circumstances.’ This felt like it was starting to fall into the other side of that quote—‘extraordinary people reacting to ordinary circumstances.’ For all that the setting is so very, very much built around the fact that it’s in space, in the future, that isn’t important. What’s important is the people you’re traveling with, and the way you feel about one another.

I loved this book, and I highly recommend it. Go give it a read.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.