The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
The Wayfarer creates wormholes to allow for speedy travel across the galaxy. A new species is to join the alliance between sapient species and the quirky crew of the Wayfarer sets out to their planet. Along the way they have misadventures, discover alarming secrets about each other, and create deep bonds.
Queer, space opera, science fiction
Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space-and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe-in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
This is a wonderfully heartwarming found family story. Its setting is one of a space opera, but the focus is on the characters. The plot takes a backseat to character interactions and development, so each chapter explores the relationships of the crew rather than moving the larger plot forward. This may be boring to some, but I loved it.
The characters are unique, sweet, and charming. The different species have elaborate cultural practices, and the tone is one of respect for their differences. Neo-pronouns are normalized. Different cultures have different ways of structuring the family, and none of them are shamed for it. One of the species doesn’t raise its biological children and engages in polyamorous relationships as well as constant platonic cuddling even with acquaintances. The culture takes some getting used to for the others, but they are respectful.
There’s a sapphic relationship between two of the main characters which was very sweet, as they each sought to ensure the other was fulfilled, being different species and having different customs when it comes to romance.
In an age where much of SFF is cynical and grimdark, this book takes a refreshingly optimistic viewpoint. There are struggles and clashes when it comes to diplomacy, but overall the world is made of good people doing their best to have compassion for each other and live in harmony with their differences. It’s a lovely message to have when it seems like our world can’t move beyond its pettiness and prejudices.
A cute, optimistic sci-fi with lovable characters and heartwarming moments, celebrating diversity and found family.