Adult · Book review · Sci-fi

Review: The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

SmallAngryPlanetThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the first book in the space opera trilogy Wayfarers.

When I first reviewed this book, I wrote that it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t work for me. But the more time passes, the less I like it.

When I started The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, I had already heard/read many reviews, all of them positive, and I knew the book was slow and character-driven. More than character-driven, I thought it was “no plot or conflict whatsoever for the first 200 pages, and too many characters to care”, but that’s me.
Yes, I’ve read books with less plot than this one. But they were either suspenseful or beautifully written. I can forgive no plot and average characters if the writing is pretty enough. But no, here the writing is painfully average too.

So, let’s talk about my first problem with this book: it’s marketed as adult sci-fi, but it reads like mediocre YA.

I want adult fiction to surprise me. I want it to do interesting things with the worldbuilding. I want it to take risks. This didn’t; it was contemporary in space, but with people who looked like reptiles sometimes.
And it gets so much praise, while adult sci-fi books that actually have an interesting, well-thought-out worldbuilding get bad ratings because they’re confusing (as in, the author actually tried to make their setting stand out, but since it’s not Star Wars-like Space anymore, it’s confusing).
This book doesn’t do anything new with its worldbuilding or its technology. It takes place in an extremely stereotypical space opera setting, but with more aliens and an AI who can fall in love (because we needed the romantic-love-makes-you-human trope, we needed some microaggressions against aromantic people).

I also hated how this book treated the character with sensory issues. Yes, he’s a (one-dimensional) bigot. It’s still not ok to treat his sensory issues as “whining” and making fun of them with your writing.

This book is praised for being “thoughtful” and “original”. I already explained that the “original” part was a cliché mess, but if “thoughtful” for you means beating your reader over the head with your message, you can keep your thoughtful books.
This book spends 500 pages telling you that prejudices are bad (I agree) and that we would be happier if we were kinder to each other (true) and doesn’t do anything else. No plot because that may distract you from the message, of course. There’s no subtlety to its delivery. I can forgive this in a YA book, but not in adult fiction.

You can’t introduce this many alien cultures in one book. They are going to feel stereotypical, almost like caricatures, and that’s what happened in this book. I did like some aspects of them, but they were never developed enough.

The characters weren’t terrible. I liked some of them (Dr. Chef, mostly) but they were all good people (and I was bored), except that one-dimensional bigot. Rosemary’s dark secret was laughable, and as a character she wasn’t as developed as she should have been – she is one of the most obvious audience surrogates I’ve ever read. I also didn’t care for her and Sissix. I didn’t know there was a way to make me not care about a f/f relationship, but this is a book full of surprises.

Unlike some other bad sci-fi books I’ve read (Defy the Stars is the first that comes to mind), this wasn’t terrible, and I understand why people like it. I probably would have found it heartwarming too if it had been shorter and subtler. But this is one of the most overrated adult books I’ve ever read.

My rating: ★★½

Have you read The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet? What did you think of it?

2 thoughts on “Review: The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

  1. Interesting review; I’ve only heard good things about this book. It’s something I can’t stand with making a character one dimensional and then make fun of them or don’t give them character growth. That doesn’t make the story fair. But I appreciate your honest thoughts 🙂 I think I’ll pass on this one

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All the positive hype and my high expectations were part of the reasons I didn’t like this book, probably – I was expecting it to be it something new, when really, it was just mediocre…
      This book did attempt to develop that character, but I don’t think it worked – after that, he was still an one-dimensional bigot, and the attempt was too late anyway.

      Like

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