Book Review: A Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Title: A Long Way To a Small Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Published: 2014
Genre: Adult Fiction – SciFi

Synopsis: Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there. But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war. Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own

My Rating: red-starred-star 1/2

I’m actually pretty sad to give this book 2.5 stars because so many people love it and in a way I can see how they loved it because Becky Chambers is an incredible character writer but at the same time this was not for me. That being said – this book might be for you so read my review but form your own opinions, as always. Review is relatively spoiler free.

This is a science fiction novel which follows the crew of the Mayfair as they go through space. It reads a lot like a collection of short stories or even character studies. For me, the pace was glacial as there is a lack of overall urgency which I felt made the book stagnant despite how lovely it is written. The writing itself earned all 2.5 stars, I enjoyed the world building and the details of each species however many parts of it felt like huge info-dumps. I personally felt incredibly detached from all of our characters despite how much I understood from each culture. I think our protagonist is Rosemary but she had no presence and I lacked any attachment to her making me feel little for her character.

However, the main overarching problems with this novel is (1) how nice it was – will detail below and (2) how anti-climactic it was written.

Let’s talk about these characters, the crew of the Mayfair has a cast of colorful characters/species however, despite all of their cultural and personality differences one thing is for certain, all of them are incredibly nice. The captain is nice, the pilot is nice, the AI is nice, the doctor/chef is nice all waiting to embrace the new girl on board who also happens to be incredibly nice. This created a lack of overall conflict and tension which is why we simply drifted through the air, stopping along the way, meeting people and learning lessons about acceptance and diversity. I’m always here for acceptance and diversity but it felt a lot more like a children’s special where we all sing kumbaya at the end. I suppose this showed me how much I enjoy gray morality and grittiness to my characters.

The second and possibly more problematic aspect of this book is how extremely anticlimactic ALL of the problems were. Let me give you an example – some mines are found in a ship they are fixing. Instead of steady tension where something goes irreparably wrong and then our crew needs to live with the consequences that lead to more trouble this is all resolved by taking some deep breaths and just talking about fear. I kid you not. I was like – that’s it??! I was in a constant state of being let down, hungering for something that was a lot more nail biting. It’s not that this book is not plot-heavy, it’s that this book has no plot. None. I don’t think I have ever read anything like this before other than short story collection.

The combination of niceties and anticlimactic situations leads us to have little conflict in the book. That page turning feel when you’re reading a space opera adventure is not here and I zoned out many times because I just didn’t care. A lot of the potential conflict and drama happens off-stage, like I hungered for the breakdowns and action sequences that were described later. I need a balance in books, I need fleshed out characters plus I need conflict plus I need a plot. It’s a harmony for me and because of this; I did not enjoy this book, to me this was just OK.

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