Book review by Laura Rutherford
I have done it! I have found the book that will change the minds of people who are reluctant about science fiction. It spans many solar systems, harnessing the beauty of hundreds of stars and far-flung civilisations. The book in question is The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This miraculous novel was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which aims to recognise outstanding examples of science fiction (SF) literature. It also earned its author a nomination for ‘Best Newcomer’ at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards. Put such impressive accolades aside, though, and this book is still just downright brilliant.
Its cast are the motley crew of the spaceship Wayfarer, who make their living punching wormholes through the fabric of space – a dangerous business, but a necessary one in a universe where many races and species struggle to exist harmoniously. The charm and wonder of Chambers’ novel, however, come not from its complex, clever setting, nor its plot, but from its characters; each one is so detailed, so alive, so relatable. They are unique and vividly realised individuals, whose hopes and secrets and dreams Chambers entrusts to the reader. They are funny and annoying and ridiculous and brave. Some are human, some are a different species, and they reflect the diversity of a changing universe that, despite being fictional, still somehow feels familiar.