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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers []



The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet begins when Ashby Santoso, the captain of a tunnelling ship, hires a young woman from Mars to be the ships first clerk. Rosemary Harper joins the ship’s small crew, which, prior to her arrival, was just the captain, the ships computer, two techs, the pilot, the navigator, an algaeist, and the kindly Dr. Chef, who serves as both the ships doctor and its chef. We see the crew through Rosemary’s eye’s as they take on an unprecedent contract which requires them to travel the long way around to a distant planet near the galactic core.

The galaxy portrayed in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is full of diverse and intelligent life. It’s a vision of the future much like that portrayed in Star Trek–there’s still plenty of misbehavior and conflict, but overall most folks have found ways to get along. We meet diverse intelligent species, from the lizard-like Aandrisk to the clam-like Harmagian. The tone of the book is light hearted and whimsical–it’s not as outrageous or as tongue-in-cheek as The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but Douglas Adams fans will certainly find much to appreciate here. And, while established science fiction fans will appreciate the numerous homages to classic science fiction (I was delighted by reference to Ursula K. Le Guin and Vernor Vinge), it is also approachable for those new to science fiction.

Some may complain that The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet isn’t sufficiently profound. It doesn’t chart new territory in terms of scientific ideas or paint some novel vision of the future we have never seen before. These criticisms are valid. But it does introduce us to interesting ideas while allowing to get to know a cast of characters that we can genuinely like, and it does so while painting a refreshingly optimistic view of the future that is a pleasure to read. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the first in a series, and I look forward to reading more.

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