The Short Way to a Tremendous, Existential Book

When it comes to finding new books, each selection is a risk based on what information you can get from the cover and the description on the back. Prior experience with the author or any of the reviewers can help you understand what aspects of the book might attract or dissuade you, but it is still pretty difficult to get a full understanding of the book before ever cracking it open. This is where I was stuck after a long few months of perpetual work and the first few books I could finally read for fun lying on a desk in front of me. 

To be honest, I picked up The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet on a desperate whim for any kind of fiction. I had no idea if I would even enjoy it, but now I’m here to tell you to give this book a chance.



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I have heard of this book being compared before to the hit series Firefly, but, as a long time fan of the show, I would pretty confidently say that this book is better than Firefly. I know that is a pretty radical statement, but hear me out.

This book is similar to Firefly in the fact that it mainly takes place on a ship in a science fictional context that takes place after humans have been integrated with galactic societies. While Firefly was more focused on a story of military and freedom, the world that Becky Chambers has created is so much more. Chambers’ Wayfarer series is filled with discussions of identity, rights, navigating differing cultures, and the struggles between staying connected to your family while making your own connections and support groups far away from them. While the alien lifeforms and futuristic technology gives the book a distinct fictional feel, the story is, at its heart, a story of life that almost everyone is given the opportunity to connect with on one level or another. 


Stars in the night sky Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Without giving away too much of the plot, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a story that features exciting and important secrets, professional and personal relationships, navigation of a war and tense, dangerous situations, dealing with language barriers, forming a new identity, and skirting the line between the legal and illegal. As a reader, I was drawn in almost immediately by the rich detail Chambers gives to her multitude of different creatures and cultures. They felt real and understandable, yet strange all at the same time. Additionally, I really appreciated how casually varied sexuality and gender was within this book. Any differences never felt like a big deal or were used as a specific “talking point”. They just existed and added life to the situations. 

I may have picked up this book with very low expectations, but it completely engrossed me to the point that I was physically incapable of putting it down. No matter what kind of fiction you’re used to, I highly recommend giving Chambers the chance to fly you to this wonderful world. And even if this exact book doesn’t sound like your thing, I have found the rest of the books in the Wayfarer series to be surprisingly different, loosely connected but not a direct continuation, from the initial book. Chambers’ work has exceeded every expectation I had formed, and I cannot wait to see what she makes next!