Saturday, October 3, 2015

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

ISBN 9781500453305, July 2014

The Wayfarer is wormhole tunneling ship, captained by Human Ashby Santoso, in a galaxy in which Humans are a fairly minor species, the newest members of the Galactic Commons. His crew includes three Humans, techmechs Kizzy and Jenks, as well as algaeist Arvis Corbin, but also the reptilian Aandrisk pilot Sissix, Sianat Navigator Ohan, and the Grum doctor and chef whose name is unpronounceable for Humans, so he goes by Dr Chef. Oh, and I nearly forgot, quite inexcusably, the AI, Lovey, who is an important part of the crew.

They're all technically very competent, but Ashby's record-keeping isn't quite up to Transport Board standards. so in response to some prodding, he hires a clerk--a young Martian woman named Rosemary Harper. Rosemary is making her very first trip into space, and she has a secret she hopes she can leave behind forever.

Her addition to the crew is enough to get Wayfarer a contract offer for a demanding but lucrative job: making a tunnel from a small, rogue planet, Hedra Ka, claimed by the Toremi Ka, one clan of the very fractious Toremi, near the galactic core, to the center of the Galactic Commons. This is part of a new alliance between the Galactic Commons and the Toremi Ka, which seems attractive to the GC because of the Toremi access to the ambi GC ships use for fuel. The GC will be paying, and paying very well, but it means Wayfarer will be traveling for nearly a full year to get in position to make that tunnel.

It's plenty of time for all of the crew to learn a great deal about each other.

This isn't a claustrophobic tale; they make stops along the way, to restock supplies, to visit Sissix's hatch family since they're passing nearby, and, after a run-in with pirates, a visit to friends of Kizzy's to acquire some interesting defensive tech. But this isn't a plot-driven story so much as a character-driven one, and the fascination here is the interplay of characters and their differences that are some personal, some cultural, and some grounded in biology. It's a hopeful story about a galaxy where, yes, there are bad people, and yes, bad things do happen, but there are also people of goodwill who strive to do their best, and whose efforts may not always be successful, they don't always fail, either. The Wayfarer crew faces danger and even disaster, and they suffer real losses that they won't recover from soon. Yet they also have their triumphs, and the quieter rewards of growth in the characters and their mutual knowledge and understanding of each other.

I love this book. Highly recommended.

I borrowed this book from my local library.