What’s it all about?:
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.
What did I think?:
I’ve put off reading this book for absolutely ages purely because of the hype surrounding it and I was slightly concerned that I wasn’t going to love it as much as everyone else seems to. It was long-listed in 2016 for the Women’s Prize For Fiction, one of my favourite literary prizes and I’ve heard other reviewers whose opinions I totally respect raving about it. So, I bit the bullet and finally did it and am I glad I did! I’ve always been slightly tentative about reading science fiction but after reading the amazing The Sparrow it proved to me that science fiction doesn’t always have to be intimidating, if it’s done in the right way. The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet is an incredible adventure in space with a host of fascinating characters that I instantly fell in love with and whom I feel that I know inside and out, almost as if they weren’t fictional fantasies at all.
The story follows a crew in space on board their ship, The Wayfarer whose purpose it is to tunnel, build and make connections between different parts of the galaxy. They have recently had a new member of staff onto the ship, Rosemary who will play a clerking role alongside the captain, Ashby, the engineering crew Kissy and Jenks, the pilot Sissix, grumpy algae-protector Corbin, the chef and doctor Dr Chef, the ship Artificial Intelligence Lovey and Ohan the navigator. The crew welcome Rosemary into their midst and she quickly becomes part of the family. Then the crew are given an opportunity to make more money with a rather dangerous job near an unstable planet with a potentially hostile alien species. They must pull together and work as a team if they are to complete the mission and maintain their reputation. However, all members of the crew have their own secrets and concerns and not all of them may survive the process in the same shape as when they began.
There’s a multitude of characters in this novel (nine “main” ones in fact)- do not be put off by this, it’s not long at all before you figure out who everyone is and what role they play in the narrative. I honestly don’t think I’ve read a book for a long time where each character is fleshed out so perfectly. Each of them had their own little quirks and foibles and I absolutely loved them for this and, as I mentioned before, felt like I knew them all intimately by the end of the novel. It has the most wonderful mixture of action-packed sequences and slower, more methodical scenes and as I was reading it, I was almost comparing it in my mind to the most expensive and exquisite three course dinner where each course is so delightful it just deserves to be savoured over a longer period of time. One of the best things about this novel was how diverse and unique our protagonists and indeed, the world the author created was. We have a range of different species, sexual preferences, races and ethnic backgrounds living (mostly) in harmony with each other and it was captivating to read about the variety of things that made them special. I would recommend this novel to anybody who is a little bit scared of science fiction and enjoys a terrific character study with a dash of eccentricity. I’ve put the second book in the duology A Closed And Common Orbit on my wishlist already and can’t wait to catch up with this astounding set of characters once more.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):