When I first picked up this book, I expected it to be about the “small, angry planet” itself and the adventures the characters had there; but now that I’m looking at the title again, I’m realizing how dumb I am.

Before I start getting into the details, I would say there is a lot of world-building in this story and you might be confused with some of the words and context at first. But once you get into the story, everything will be explained. Additionally, in my opinion, this story is written using simple words, so any new or complicated Synonym you come across and you cannot find its meaning on Google, then mark it as a made-up Synonym for a species or their language.

approximately the book

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is an adventure story but it leans more towards a thought-provoking one. Whether you are expecting an action-packed story, then sorry this is not for you. The Long Way… is a science fiction that takes place in a new age where there are species spread far and across the universe, where Galactic Commons is set up for peace and order (thankfully, humans are not the leaders), and where paper is precious and priceless. The story revolves around the crew members of the tunnelling spaceship Wayfarer (the Fishbowl is my favourite place on the ship!), and how they learn and understand each other through their long journeys across space.

“The truth is, Rosemary, that you are capable of anything. Good or poor. You always have been, and you always will be. Given the correct push, you, too, could do horrible matters. That darkness exists within all of us. All you can do, Rosemary — all any of us can do — is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it. It’s up to you to decide what part you will play.”

Rosemary Harper joins as the new clerk for the Wayfarer, captained by Ashby Santoso with the help of his 7-member crew (yes, Lovey is a part of their crew!). Sissix pilots their ship with the help of their navigator Ohan, and Corbin, the algaeist. Incidentally, algae play a vast part in their fuelling system. Dr Chef keeps the crew members fed and tended with his smoky buns and steamy red coast bugs. The last two human crew members are the loopy duo – Kizzy and Jenks always ready to tackle any tech or machine-related problems. Ultimate but not the least and definitely the most important crew member is Lovey or Lovelace, their sweet, kind and loving AI of the Wayfarer.

The story changes POVs with each chapter or different sections in the same chapter. So, the readers are able to understand how each species of this rag-tag team behaves and thinks. Rosemary found a family in them regardless of their differing worlds, cultures, languages, and opinions. The story talks about the messed-up ways of humanity and covers some topics that are too “taboo” in today’s time.

Whether the conservatives and queerphobic were to even hear the idea of normalizing interspecies coupling, human-AI romantic relationships, and polyamory, I guess they wouldn’t want to live in such a time (good riddance). The story also prioritizes effectiveness instead of maintaining and following the social norm – Go ahead and do what you want with your body, as long as you don’t disrespect and hurt anyone else or their culture.

All the other species think that humans, during their time on Soil, before becoming spacers and exploring the universe, were dull (person) and hungry for money and power and that they killed Earth all on their own due to their selfishness. I love how Becky Chambers reminds us over the book at sufficient intervals, of human stupidity via the eyes of species of more intelligence.

Some of my favourite lines from this book:

“The very fact that we use the term ‘cold-blooded’ as a Synonym for ‘heartless’ should tell you something about the innate bias we primates hold against reptiles”.

To some Humans, the promise of a patch of land was worth any effort. It was an oddly predictable sort of behaviour. Humans had a long, storied history of forcing their way into places where they didn’t belong.

“So when Bear gave himself a new arm, he didn’t do it because he didn’t like the body he was born in, but because he felt that the new arm fit him better. Tweaking your body, it’s all about trying to make your physical self fit with who you are inside.”

It was funny how the potential for profit always seemed to trump antipathy.

Want and intelligence is a dangerous combination.

I don’t want to spoil any more of the story than I already have. I would recommend that everyone read this with an open intellect because otherwise, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t like this story and drop it halfway through. You can get the kindle and paperback editions here.

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