Monday, 17 August 2015

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet


Book Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Date Started: August 9th 2015
Date Completed: August 17th 2015
Genres: Sci-Fi, Adventure
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Stars
Final Rating: Four stars

◆ Thank you NetGalley for this eBook copy for review ◆

This book was completely different from what I expected, and while that made it harder for me to get comfortable it was really nice to read a diverse sci-fi that wasn't bleak. Though it sometimes felt a little too focused on showing off the world building as opposed to creating a driven story, the characters and their various side plots are what really pulled it through.

Chambers' writing itself was the first thing that struck me as odd when starting this novel: instead of the typical action-and-technology-heavy prose you would expect from a sci-fi adventure, we're instead given what feels like a contemporary-style text focused a lot more on dialogue. The fact that the characters speak in a reasonably modern way definitely exaggerated the feeling of a television drama for me, and made it quite hard for me to get into the zone. Admittedly, this is no fault of Chambers herself, she makes a very lovely atmosphere on the ship - but when you're expecting tense species politics and exciting spaceship battles it catches you off guard a bit.
Having said that, there's an impressive amount of world building throughout the whole book: from various species and cultures to their languages and politics, to the places the crew visit and the backstories they have, Chambers did a very good job at keeping her universe growing in an understandable way consistently. So much thought was put into world - and so much care as to how it's communicated to the reader - that I was actually able to keep up with the explanations and was genuinely interested in the galaxies being built up with each new development.

Sometimes when you expect to be getting one sort of story, and you end up with something completely different it can be quite hard to adjust your expectations and enjoy the new story. Luckily, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet somehow overcomes this issue, and once I'd accepted the most contemporary everyday life story as opposed to the sci-fi adventure I really enjoyed reading about these characters. I have a feeling that if you didn't like a particular character it could get quite tedious since we're exposed to pretty much all of the people all of the time, but there's always the world building to distract you.
The big problem for me was that it didn't really feel like an fully-developed story: much more little lots of little ones shoved together. While it's really nice to read, there isn't any tension built up from it, and the fact that the atmosphere on the ship is a friendly, relaxed one anyway means that even serious events do happen they're a lot less dramatic. Overall it was a really nice exploration of the world to show off the many species and political relationships of the universe, but without too much of a plot line itself. The same goes for the ending: a nice farewell to the characters, but each couple of chapters seemed to have its own resolution, so a final climax for the whole book felt almost redundant.

Each character in this book is given their own side plots that ultimately combine to make the overall storyline. The good thing about this is that we're constantly moving between different stories, but are still being exposed to the others characters. (This is the element that made me feel like I was reading a television show.)
Rosemary is sold as the protagonist, but I wouldn't say the book has a main character as such. I really like the way there's a focus on everyone (even if there are some featured more than others) and it means you don't get bored. The fact that Rosemary was I suppose the catalyst for the story but didn't become the main focus of everyone (whether it be romantically, antagonistically or through friendship) really impressed me. We're allowed to like her as a person, rather than having her forced on us as a protagonist.
My favourite character may have been Ashby for two reasons: one, he's a really lovely person, and not and he fitted some of the common qualities seen in sci-fi captains, but didn't have the typical storyline. Yes, he was assertive and cared a lot about his crew, but he wasn't reckless and stupid to try and please them or gain authority. He genuinely seemed to have the respect of the crew and the skill to be leading them which, quite frankly, you don't actually see in a lot of characters in his position. And secondly, his side story was the most engaging for me. I admit that a star-crossed romance wasn't exactly the most out-there of plot lines, but I was expecting Rosemary to fall in love with him and create a horrific love triangle. Oh top of that though the politics involved in his relationship, and the restraint and genuine care he showed throughout won me over - it was nice to see a conflicted person in power using that power sensibly.
Sissix was intended to be the main focus for species exploration. I have to say I didn't feel like she had such a clear personal story in the book herself, but she was very important when it came to assisting other people in theirs. Or you could look at it like we never see Sissix's story from her chapters, but we see her development as she weaved into everyone else's story.

It feels like The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet takes a while to kick off (nearly as long as it takes to the say the title) and does feel like it isn't going anywhere at the start. To be honest, that's kind of just the feel of the entire book, which is why I wasn't able to fully immerse myself in its story. Like I've said, it's much more about the characters and their growing relationships with the rest of the crew as opposed to having a traditional storyline, so pacing is a bit of a tricky thing to pin down. There is what could be seen as an episodic structure so you can really see the road-trip influence.

While I wasn't expecting what I got from this book, I think it's definitely a nice read. Admittedly it didn't amaze me but I still had fun reading it, and it was good enough for my previous expectations in genre not to matter. I think contemporary lovers that especially enjoy reading the development of people and families should pick this up, and there's the added bonus of a new kind of landscape to go along with it. Fantasy readers might also enjoy the thought put into the world building here, though if you're looking for an epic adventure maybe not.

Image Source

No comments:

Post a Comment