Genre | Science Fiction
Page #s | 518
Publishing Date | July 2014
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.
I don’t know how I slept on this Hugo award-winning queer science fiction novel that focuses on characterization and cultural worldbuilding over plot (my favorites), but I’m so glad I found it now! Every page of this book was a delight, and I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the Wayfarer series!
The people on board the Wayfarer spaceship are the heart and soul of this book. There’s Rosemary, a human woman from Mars who serves as the ship’s clerk, and Captain Ashby, a human man having an illicit affair with a sapient race that forbids interspecies relationships. Kizzy and Jenks are the ship mechanics – Kizzy is a dizzying force of nature and Jenks has fallen in love with Lovey, the ship’s AI. Corbin is the cantakerous algae specialist (because spaceships run on algae, it’s incredible) and Dr. Chef is the doctor/chef (I love this book so much) whose six handfeet make short work of cooking. Then there’s the mysterious Ohan, who are a Pair merged with the Whisperer that allows them to see into subspace, and pilot Sissix, MY FAVORITE, an alien lizard species that thrives off of cuddling because of social bonding and also being cold-blooded.
The crew is hired to build a tunnel from one end of the galaxy to the other, and the majority of the book takes place in the long space between destinations. We get to see the world through each character’s eyes as they stop at port cities, survive attacks, and meet each other’s families. Each alien culture is well thought out and interacts with each other in very realistic ways – although there is a feeling of progress to the story (things are definitely better in this future), there are still war criminals, prejudice and conflicting arguments about free will and sapient consciousness.
This might be my favorite book of the year. Although I’m embarrassed to have not known about it for so long, I’m glad I’ve discovered the series after it’s finished so that I don’t have to wait to continue in Chambers’ world!
What Makes This Book Queer?
Not only does this book take advantage of space cultures to explore queer themes of identity, interpersonal relationships, and family, it also explicitly pairs a human woman and a female Aandrisk (lizard-type alien) in the beginnings of a polyamorous relationship. I honestly didn’t expect it, and when they started hooking up, I literally read every paragraph out loud to my girlfriend because I was so delighted.
Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the perfect book for anyone who is a fan of the TV show Firefly – aka anyone who loves sci-fi stories that focus on a small band of diverse people who become a found family to each other.
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