I’m seemingly on a bit of a science fiction kick at the moment, having gone through a number of audiobooks and audio drama podcasts, all with a sci-fi bent. This is another of those books that has languished in my wish list for too long. I hadn’t realised (or had forgotten) that The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is written by Becky Chambers, the same person as A Psalm for the Wild-Built which makes sense when I think of the cozy atmosphere of the latter.
The summary of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet says it’s like Firefly meets Mass Effect. I don’t know what the second is (I think it’s a computer game?), but I can see the similarities with Firefly. A close-knit crew aboard a (sort of) junker spaceship who are just trying to make ends meet.
The story itself is like slice-of-life science fiction. It’s a heavily character-driven plot rather than plot-driven. So while there is still an underlying plot where they need to get to the galaxy’s centre and punch a hyperspace wormhole back to civilised space, the story is much more focused on the crew’s lives. It makes for such a refreshing change of pace and a thoroughly engaging story.
The crew is a diverse cast of characters with interesting backgrounds and unique quirks. The story primarily follows Rosemary Harper, who is running from her life, trying to escape her past. She takes the position of clerk onboard the Wayfarer, a pieced-together spaceship that is used to create wormholes through space to distant places.
Humans in this universe are late to the galactic party. Various factions left Earth after it was left inhospitable, with the rich moving to Mars while others set out for the stars. Another species took pity on us humans and allowed us to join their club, but mostly we’re way behind everyone else for a change.
This leaves plenty of room for a massive array of other species to thrive as characters in their own right and opens up a lot of questions about gender identity, how to co-exist with strange new species, how love can transcend species, and how to find a place of belonging.
The universe that Chambers has created is one that I’d love to visit first-hand. With so many species and worlds to visit, it sounds like it would be such as vibrant time to be alive. Yes, there are the all-too-common wars between various civilisations, and we do see some of the seedier elements at times, but overall it sounds like a fun place to be.
The narration by Patricia Rodriguez was excellent, though her pacing seemed a little slow for my personal taste. Cranking up the playback speed sorted that out without issue. The production was top-notch, with nothing like background noises or obvious retakes that I noticed.
If you like science fiction to be all-go-no-quit action, then this isn’t for you, but if you enjoy really well-told stories filled with interesting characters, then I’m sure you’ll love this. The characters all feel well-rounded with depth that made me feel like I knew them personally.
It’s also book one of four which I was pleasantly surprised to see. I’ll be grabbing the next one for sure, and I’ll certainly be giving this one another a listen.