A quick opener here. As some of y’all might know, I ain’t a great fan of space opera. I like my SF the way I like my coffee: dark, diurnal, gritty and filled with tortuous morality. But THE LONG WAY came so highly recommended that I didn’t see no good reason not to give it a crack. In fact, I were introduced to it by the esteemed Editor Perry, who is well-known as having mighty fine taste. *straightens hat* An’ I’ll tell you one thing, she weren’t wrong about this. THE LONG WAY were originally self-published as an e-book, but has now been picked up by them wond’rous varmints at Hodder, for release as a great handsome hardback in August 2015. THAT MAKES CHAMBERS FAMILY GODDAMIT. Anyhow, fans of Firefly should get themselves down for a copy quicker than a worm down a hen’s gullet. Y’all won’t be disappointed.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.
A refreshing, joyous book that skips neatly around convention, and – with the flick of a page – sucks you utterly into its world, so much so that you become reluctant to leave the Wayfarer and its crew. Warm, welcoming and brimming with atmosphere, this is a lively and assured debut that isn’t afraid to put character before plot, and is a hundred times better for it.
The grand mysteries of the cosmos and the messy, complex workings of the heart (regardless of species) are woven together and treated with an even hand. In fact, the theme of equality runs through the book like a fuel line. Chambers never takes the easy way out by using genre tropes as a short cut or a crutch. The setting is vivid and wonderfully realised, yes, but it also provides a platform to explore realities that are all too often set aside in favour of sensation.
The presence of alien species obviously offers a great deal of opportunity to explore the idea of difference; but rather than merrily splicing individuals into easy dichotomies, Chambers doesn’t shy away from presenting characters who are themselves preoccupied with trying to navigate the murky depths of understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Multiple POVs in fairly short sections work hard to cover a lot of ground in this respect, although occasionally I felt myself longing for more time with certain characters, beyond what was absolutely necessary for the story (with the outwardly dislikable Corbin, for example). On rare occasions, the attribution of POV felt a little strained, but it’s a testimony to Chambers skill that the story is – almost always – able to encompass the viewpoints of a whole cast of characters with ease.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the world that Chambers has created, with characters who I want to call up, and meet down the pub. Let’s hope that this isn’t the end for the crew of the Wayfarer. I’ll certainly be waiting on board, ready for adventure…