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review 2018-08-01 04:21
A charming, earnest and frequently delightful space opera that pretty much matches the hype.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
We are all made from chromosomes and DNA, which themselves are made from a select handful of key elements. We all require a steady intake of water and oxygen to survive (though in varying quantities). We all need food. We all buckle under atmospheres too thick or gravitational fields too strong. We all die in freezing cold or burning heat. We all die, full stop.


Ohhhh boy. One of yesterday's posts was easy -- I state the premise, say the book lived up to the premise, and there ya go. A finished post. Today? I'm not sure I could succinctly lay out the premise in 6 paragraphs, much less say anything else about the book. It's deep, it's sprawling, it's fun and full of heart. What isn't it? Easy to talk about briefly.

 

So I'm going to cut some corners, and not give it the depth of discussion that I'd like to.

So you know how The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy starts off with the Vogon Constructor Fleet constructing a hyperspace bypass right through our Solar System? Well, if the Vogons were the megacorp doing that, the crew of the Wayfarer is your mom & pop-level company doing the same kind of work. But there are no Vogons, and it's not a hyperspace bypass they're constructing, but the metaphor works -- the Wayfarer is building/cutting/creating ways for spaceships to make it from point A to point B faster -- I'll leave the detailed explanation to Sissix or Kizzy to explain when you read it (I think it was Kizzy, but I could be wrong -- my copy is in another state, so it's hard for me to check things like that).

 

The Wayfarer is made up of a mix of species -- including human (some of which were raised on a planet, others not), the others? Well, they'd fit right in with the customers in the Mos Eisley Cantina (with names like Sissix or Kizzy) -- too difficult to explain, but they're all radically different from pretty much anything you've seen or read before. Chambers' imagination when it comes to their physiology, culture, mannerisms, beliefs is just astounding. Really it's fantastic. And the crew is a family -- when a new crew member joins, they're greeted with "welcome home." And that's just what they mean.

 

This new crew member is Rosemary Harper, our entry point into this world, too. She's never been off-planet before, doesn't understand the science behind the work they do, really only has textbook knowledge of most of the species they run into. As she learns, so does the reader. Phew. Essentially, the plot is this: the captain of Wayfarer gets a chance to make history and make more money than he's used to -- he jumps at it, but his crew has to take a freakishly long trip to get to the (for lack of a better term) construction site (see the title). This long trip is filled with dangers, encounters with family members no one has seen in ages and old friends. And pirates. Even when they get to the construction site, the challenges are just beginning and everyone on board is going to be put through the wringer just to survive.

 

In the midst of all this is laughter, love, joy, pain, sorrow, and learning. Rosemary becomes part of the family -- by the actions of the crew bringing her in, and through her own reciprocal actions. Now, many parts of this book seem slow -- but never laboriously slow -- it's the way that Chambers has to construct it so that we get the emotional bonds between the characters -- and between the characters and the reader -- firmly established, so that when the trials come, we're invested. I was surprised how much I cared about the outcomes of certain characters at the end -- it's all because Chambers did just a good job building the relationships, nice and slow. The book frequently feels light -- and is called that a lot by readers -- but don't mistake light for breezy.

 

I want to stress, it's not laboriously slow, it's not boring. It's careful, it's well-thought out. It's your favorite chili made in the slow cooker all day, rather than dumping the ingredients in a pot an hour or so before dinner. It occasionally bugged me while reading, but by that time, I was invested and had a certain degree of trust for Chambers -- and by the time I got to the end, I understood what she was doing in the slow periods and reverse my opinion of them.

 

I frequently felt preached at while reading this book. There were agendas all around and these characters did what they could to advance them. Most of the speechifying and preaching worked in the Wayfarer Universe, but not in ours. When I read it, I had no problem with it -- but the more I think about it, the less I agree and the more annoyed I get. The opening quotation was one of the themes pushed, another had to do with family and/or brothers -- but the best lines about those involve spoilers or need the context to be really effective, so go read them yourselves. I don't want to get into a debate with the various characters in the book, so I'll bypass the problems I have with just the note that I have them. But in the moment and in the context of the novel, the writing behind the characters' points/values, the emotions behind them are moving, compelling and convincing -- and that's what you want, right?

 

It is super, super-easy to see why this won buckets of awards -- and probably deserved most (if not all) of those awards. This is one of the better space operas I've read in the last few . . . ever, really. It's easy to see why it got the hype and acclaim it did, and while I might not be as over-the-moon as many readers are with it, I understand their love. I heartily enjoyed it, and can see myself returning to this universe again soon.

 

As far as the star rating goes? I've vacillated between 3-5 a lot over the last week or so (including while writing this post), usually leaning high -- so take this one with a grain of salt, it's how I feel at the moment. (that's all it ever is, really, but I'm usually more consistent)

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/07/31/the-long-way-to-a-small-angry-planet-by-becky-chambers-a-charming-earnest-and-frequently-delightful-space-opera-that-pretty-much-matches-the-hype
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review 2018-07-22 01:13
Record of a Spaceborn Few - Becky Chambers

Her first book was amazing. Her second topped that by being amazing x 2. And now she's accomplished amazing x 3. Want to re-read it immediately, which is what I did on finishing the previous two.

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text 2018-05-27 16:05
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers $2.99
A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) - Becky Chambers

Embark on an exciting, adventurous, and dangerous journey through the galaxy with the motley crew of the spaceship Wayfarer in this fun and heart-warming space opera—the sequel to the acclaimed The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

 

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

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review 2018-05-01 00:00
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers Becky Chambers might be my new hero
Before I finished my last read, I started poking around in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, trying to pick my next read, when I noticed the page “A special note from Becky Chambers” all the way in the back. I assumed it would be an acknowledgement page or maybe a teaser for an upcoming book or even just a note to her fans, but instead, Chambers included a note to encourage aspiring writers not to give up.

The timing couldn’t have been better. I’ve been pretty down on my own writing for quite a while now, and a few weeks ago, I came closer to quitting altogether than I have in several years. I decided to give it one more push and started getting up early every day to write before work, and a few days in, I read that note from Chambers and I knew (a) I was DEFINITELY reading this book next and (b) that bit of inspiration was exactly what I needed to face a 5am alarm.

I was worried I couldn’t be objective about the book after that, even if I didn’t like it, but not to worry: it’s great.

The story follows the crew of the Wayfarer, a tunneling ship that creates wormholes. The diverse crew includes a woman from a lizard-like species (but do not call her a lizard), a doctor/chef with six arm-legs, a sentient AI named Lovey who communicates between the ship’s systems and crew and is in a not-so-secret relationship with one of the crew. The newest addition is Rosemary, hired as a clerk to file forms and communicate with the Galactic Council, but she’s running from a secret past that may or may not put her job in jeopardy if anyone finds out the truth.

They’re heading for their biggest job yet, creating a tunnel between GC territory and the galaxy’s core to allow easier harvesting and transport of ambi, a powerful fuel harvested from the event horizon of black holes. The catch: they have to tunnel through a war zone. It’s a dangerous mission but one that will pay more than most of their other jobs combined, one that will allow them to upgrade the ship and compete for even bigger jobs.

Aside from a few tense moments, there’s not a lot of high drama. Instead, Chambers builds world upon world upon world filled with different species across a whole spectrum of physical forms and cultures. Accordingly, there’s a lot of exposition, the kind of thing I usually hate, but somehow, it works. The crew of the ship have genuine affection for each other, and much of the exposition comes as newcomer Rosemary gets to know them. There’s a gentle sentimentality here that drew me in and made me root for the characters, even that one unlikable guy who becomes sympathetic when we learn about what he’s been through. In lesser hands, this book could have been a boring schlockfest, but Chambers is good enough and smart enough to make it work. This is one of my favorite reads of the year, and I can’t wait to find out where she'll take me next.

(This review was originally posted as part of Cannonball Read 10: Sticking It to Cancer, One Book at a Time.)
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review 2018-04-21 10:10
Mundane Fiction in Disguise: “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

“Lovers are fun, but kind of stupid, too. They say stupid things to each other and they ignore all their friends because they’re too busy staring, and they get jealous, and they have fights over dumb shit like who did the dishes last or why they can’t fold their fucking socks, and maybe the sex gets bad, or maybe they stop finding each other interesting, and then somebody bangs someone else, and everyone cries, and they see each other years later, and that person you once shared everything with is a total stranger you don’t even want to be around because it’s awkward.”

 

In “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” by Becky Chambers

(No, I didn’t get the quote wrong; it’s really in the book ipsis verbis)

 

Should all speculative fiction be written in a fantastical, hyper-imagined future where everything is new and shiny and different?

 

Having a rich panoply of characters make 'walk on' appearances engages the reader and helps them to develop a richness, texture and depth to a work. The reader can determine whether or not one of these 'extras' connects to the story-line elsewhere - and an impressionistic sketch of these characters and their activities actually requires that the reader puts in some effort in constructing the world in which the characters operate. Roger Zelazny used this device quite well, and I enjoyed it: discontinuities were everywhere, and hints and ephemera enhanced the story. I didn't want to see everything in a well-lit room. I tried Larkin when I was twelve, then when I was sixteen (yay for required reading as part of my British Council English education.) Much preferred Tennyson and then I was in my late twenties. 

 

 

If you're into a Mundane-Fiction--in-Disguise, read on.  

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