The novel The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. The cover features a small, silhouette of a woman, looking up at the vast night sky and the milky way.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers’ sci-fi story defies easy classification. The tale of the spaceship Wayfarer and her crew takes place in an immersive well-drawn universe, populated by a variety of colourful alien species. The central premise is the Wayfarer must undertake a year-long journey to a distant part of the galaxy. Chambers tells this in a realistic way so, whilst the crew does have to deal with some dangerous and challenging situations, for the majority of the time not a lot happens. It feels quite episodic, more like a soap opera than a single compelling narrative.

If all of this sounds like it should be a problem, it’s not. The Long Way is impossible to put down because its characters leap off the page. All of them are distinct and relatable, with their own objectives and goals. I was reminded of the short-lived TV show Firefly whilst reading this. The complex and developing relationships between the Wayfarer’s crew are the heart of this novel. There’s an incredible warmth to this story, which could be thought of as the ultimate comfort read with its emphasis on found family and friendship.

You can tell a novel is good when you feel bereft once it’s finished. I’m so glad Chambers took her chance and self-published this novel back in 2014. Whilst the fact it was subsequently picked up and published traditionally is no fluke, I don’t think that would have happened if Chambers had queried the novel through the normal channels originally. The book wouldn’t have made an easy pitch because it was so different, but that’s precisely why it attracted a massive cult following, which grew organically by word of mouth.

This novel is masterpiece and testament not only to the importance of friendship but also to the power of following your dreams.

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Author: Tim Hardie

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