Thursday, 8 November 2018

#CBR10 Book 95: "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" by Becky Chambers

Page count: 519 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR10Bingo: Cannonballer Recommends (this was a CBR Book Exchange gift from Yesknopemaybe (my paperback copy), it has also been favourably reviewed by MathildeHoeg, ingres77, dAvid, badkittyuno, belphebe, emmalita, narfna and faintingviolet, among others)

Rosemary Harper is trying to escape her old life and doesn't want anyone tracking her down. She pays a lot of money to get a new identity and gets a job on a run-down and patched up spaceship, where no one from her old life would ever think to look for her. Aboard the Wayfarer, with its eclectic, but mostly affectionate crew, she finds a sense of community and a found family she never knew she was missing.

What starts out as mostly routine space travel becomes a lot more dramatic when the crew get an amazing, yet dangerous, job opportunity. Hired to make a wormhole tunnel to a distant planet, currently involved in a vicious civil war, could make the crew a huge amount of money. They have to survive to spend their earnings, though.

Science fiction is a genre I really would like to enjoy, but which I keep struggling with. Every so often, a book or a series comes along that I genuinely enjoy, but so much of the time, the genre just leaves me cold, or maybe bored out of my mind. I also much prefer sci-fi on screen, on TV or film. I tried reading Leviathan Wakes, the first book in The Expanse series, and it just didn't do anything for me. The TV series, on the other hand, I'm hugely enjoying (to the point where I am now furious, because the husband and I are halfway through season 2, and they suddenly yanked it from Norwegian Netflix - how am I going to get the rest of it now?) and it brings the characters and story alive for me in a way the book just didn't.

When I first heard about this book, there was only the one book in the series. There are now three, and in the time since I got the first book on sale, a whole bunch of people whose opinions I trust and respect have reviewed it in glowing terms. Frankly, a book that seems to appeal to so many different people just has to be good, right? So it was an obvious choice for my "Cannonballer Recommends" square (especially since I've been trying to cull my ever expanding TBR list a bit while planning the reads). Nevertheless, I was worried that I was going to be a lone voice who didn't see what all the fuss was about.

Happily, this book worked for me and I enjoyed it a lot. I know I own the second book in the series as well, and am now looking forward to getting to read that in the near future. I suspect that the kind of sci-fi that works for me, is the strongly character driven stuff. Yes, this book features a dangerous tunnelling mission into unknown space and there are potentially hostile aliens who could harm our crew, but that is all secondary to the relationships between the actual crew members and the various interpersonal events that take place. While the ship and the various alien planets are obviously described, not that much time is spent on the technical aspects of things and boring tech stuff. This book cares much more about the various people aboard the Wayfarer, who we get to know through the eyes of Rosemary, and the people and androids they interact with on various planets and ships along the way.

There are absolutely dramatic events that take place over the course of this book, but I cared more about how they impacted on the characters I came to know and enjoy, than for the events themselves. Because I really enjoyed the crew, even the more disagreeable members, I could happily just keep reading about them bimbling about in space. I was sad to discover that the next books, while set in the same universe and sort of loosely connected with this book, don't actually focus any more on the crew of the Wayfarer. Still, Becky Chambers writes sci-fi that I enjoy, so I will give the other books a chance as well. It's not often that I find something I'm excited to read more of in this genre (Narfna's going to be so excited!), so I need to stick with the things that actually work for me.

Thank you, Yesknopemaybe, for my book (you had no idea of knowing I already owned an e-book copy of it). Having now read and enjoyed it, I'm delighted to have a physical copy I can lend to my non e-book reading friends.

Judging a book by its cover: I have two copies of this book, with two different covers. The e-book that I got in an e-book sale back in 2016 has this lovely cover design, with the soaring sky above a tiny, lone person in silhouette. I love this cover. My paperback has the newer cover, which feels like it's pretty much all clunky font and no grace or elegance. I'm assuming the publishers chose the redesign for a good reason, but as far as I can tell, some versions of the sequels also have the pretty, sky-filled cover designs still, so clearly some markets prefer these to the "giant font" ones.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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