The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Book Review
Rosemary Harper, human, joins the multispecies crew of the Wayfarer. Their job is to tunnel wormholes that allow near-instantaneous travel between two points in space. The story chronicles one such trip that requires an unusually long transit time.
Set in the Galactic Commons, an area of the Milky Way galaxy controlled by a central, collaborative government, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a multifaceted work of art. Chambers does an exceptional job creating a vibrant backdrop to the world. From a crew member’s room up to the GC as a whole, every setting is described with precisely enough detail to allow the reader to envision it without becoming distracting.
The story picks up with the introduction of Rosemary Harper. She joins the crew of the Wayfarer as a file clerk to add a bureaucratic legitimacy that they lacked before. It’s not that they were smugglers or anything so cliché. They just weren’t good at keeping up to date with their paperwork. This legitimacy offers the crew a chance to take an especially lucrative job. The only drawback is that it will take an unusually long time to complete. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the story of that job. No more. No less.
At the heart of it all is the loveable and relatable crew of the Wayfarer. Every aspect of the story is set up to explore the crew and their relationships with each other. Each character has their own challenge to face and story to tell. Through these characters, we examine ourselves and today’s society.
Rosemary is a Martian born human woman who is also the newest member of the crew. Educated and trained planetside, this is her first real trip through space. As such, she usually acts as the eye of the reader. Instead of including a lot of exposition, relevant background information is explained to Rosemary. But don’t think that she’s just a greenhorn. She is a strong individual in her own right with some surprising characteristics and history from which she is running.
The most compelling crew member is Sissix. She is an Aandrisk, a reptilian humanoid with multicolored feathers growing out of their head. Through Sissix, Chambers explores some inherent biases that exist in humans. From the phrase “cold-blooded” to our sexual norms, Sissix challenges us as readers. Her species has a much more physical and sexual relationship than humans. Polyamory and pansexuality are the norms.
Perhaps the best quality explored through Sissix is that of found family. Her species don’t have blood family like humans. They have “feather families.” They choose who their family is. Their primary notion of the family is a found family. More than anything else, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is just a story of Sissix’s family.
If you enjoy character-driven stories, then you’ll enjoy this book. It hits all the right points with a solid plot, excellent world-building, relatable characters, and just the right amount of social commentary. If you only enjoy stories with high stakes, close scrapes, and tension so thick you can cut it with a knife then look elsewhere. However, don’t think it doesn’t have any high stakes or high tension moments. It is, after all, a space opera.