Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.
But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.
You know how sometimes you read a book that gives you all the feels but then it takes those feels and jumps on them and mashes them into tiny pieces. That was The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet. To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement. Its a mash up of all the things I love about Star Trek, its about modern problems, race, class, gender, violence but told through a futuristic setting.
The story is told the eyes of a girl called Rosemary who has never been off Mars before and gets a job on a spacecraft with other alien species. Most of the story deals with Rosemary adjusting to living with these people and getting used to the fact that the human way of life and normal gender roles don’t apply to aliens and even just assuming that they would apply can be seen as offensive. I suppose it’s an idea that we should see more in science-fiction (it can’t really apply to real life since as far as we know aliens don’t exist). Just because we have male and female sexual organs doesn’t mean that an alien species will have the same or even something that compares to it.
The characters are so fascinating, we have 4 humans, Rosemary is from what you would call the upperclass, these humans left Earth to start a new life on Mars but in doing so left the others behind to die. The other three are spacers which basically means they have lived in space all their life. But one of them also has dwarfism so you have this really interesting thing where they could be cured of their dwarfism – we even see how people having their genes changed is a normal thing – but they choose not to because even though they are small, they feel normal like that.
We have Sizzix, who is very similar to a lizard, though calling her, or any of her race a lizard is akin to speciesism. Just because the closest thing she can be compared to is a lizard doesn’t mean it’s okay to make that comparison. But we also get to see how the family dynamics in her species differs from humans (and that’s really fascinating). We have the doctor/ chef who is also a member of an alien race, I don’t want to say too much but he has a really fascinating back story.
And then we have Ohan who is the Navigator but also a navigator. The closest thing I can compare Ohan to is the Trill in Star Trek. Ohan is the member of a species called the Sianat, this race is infected with a virus while young, this virus gives them the ability to understand what is going on in the sublayer of space, an extremely important thing for a Navigator. However this virus makes them more than one person. Sort of like that episode of Voyager where a transporter accident turns Tuvok and Neelix into one person. But this virus ends up causing some interesting moral dilemmas.
I really loved this book. It feels like an episode of Star Trek. You have this organisation – very similar to the Federation – who have realised that they can do better than fight, so try to find a way to cooperate in peace. But it’s really this little story about the people living together on a ship and the fascinating characters they meet. The only complaint I have about this book is that there is no sequel. Basically if you like Star Trek read this book. If you don’t like Star Trek read it anyway.
*I received a copy of this book from Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.