So, I just finished reading Becky Chambers’ novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. This is apparently Chambers’ first novel and I am impressed. As my fans know, I’m not one for “the new stuff.” Most of my SciFi reading is decades old and delving into a 2011 book is a bit “novel” for me. My reason? Simple, most new science fiction is dystopian crap with poor characterization and pointless storylines. That’s one reason I became a writer, in fact, to tell stories with rich characters and hopeful endings. In Chambers, however, I’ve found a happy exception to the doom and gloom and it’s nice quite refreshing.
First off, I must be honest and say that this is not a riveting space adventure and the plot moves slowly. The story involves a tramp space ship that has been contracted for a job on a distant world and most of the novel concerns their travel to said planet. Sure, when they get there things happen, but the action is over before you know it and the resolution is hardly the heroic stuff of Flash Gordon–but to be honest, I didn’t care.
The characters really pop and the interactions between the crewmates of the ship are the chief source of the fun. It’s an interspecies crew, made of radically different beings with very different cultures. In truth, this book is about how those different characters get along far more than it’s about the mission of the spaceship. And that’s just fine by me because Chambers makes the journey worth it.
So, if you’re like me, a diehard fan of the old who’s looking for something new, I recommend The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.
By Clayton J. Callahan