24 Great Books in 2016: Day Two

I’m pretty impressed I made it back here for day two tbh. I’m hoping this is a good sign for the rest of the month!

Today’s book is The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Yes, I was late to the party on this one, but I got here eventually. I LOVED this book, and fortunately read it just in time to benefit from the pre-order offers for the standalone sequel, *and* to get to one of Becky Chambers’ signings.


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.
One of my friends describes The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as a hug in a book, and she’s not wrong. It might be the most perfect description of a book ever. The cast of characters is lovely. There’s no forced conflict here – everyone gets on for the most part, and what conflict does arise feels organic. If you’ve got a group of people trapped in a relatively small space, there’s always going to be some arguments, but that’s all they are. They get resolved, and everyone moves on. I finished the book feeling like I knew and cared about every character on that ship, and you cannot imagine my disappointment when I found the sequel didn’t continue their story. (I’m over that now, and the sequel may well be making its own appearance in this blog.)
There is a plot, which is pretty effectively summarised by the blurb above, so I’m not going to repeat it, but the strength of this book is 100% in the characters. And one of the things I loved most about it is the sheer diversity. This is a future where humanity has met a vast number of different species and learned how to get along with them – because they had to. Humans are at the bottom of the pile, and essentially only exist because they got lucky. Some of these species are gender neutral, or have genders that aren’t fixed – and no-one cares. They just adapt. Gender neutral pronouns are just a part of everyday language. No-one cares who you want to sleep with either – it’s entirely up to you and your partner – or the terms on which you want to form a relationship (or not). Differences, whatever they are, are just accepted, because how else do you form alliances with species so different from one another? I love that Becky Chambers didn’t just make her aliens Human 2.0. These are properly individual species, with their own cultures and identities that have all evolved differently. It is such a rich, wonderful, colourful world, and I wish it was ours.
I don’t feel like I’ve done this wonderful book justice. If you haven’t read it, I really do have to insist that you go and find a copy asap. Allowing for the fact the year isn’t quite over, it’s probably my favourite book of 2016. It’s just heartwarming and a joy to read.

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