Reviewed by Kristin
Rosemary is glad to head out into deep space with the crew of the Wayfarer. While the Wayfarer is not the largest or flashiest of spacefaring ships, its assignment is extraordinary. Ashby, the Captain, has taken on the task of punching pinholes through subspace in order to create shortcuts for travel through the universe. Wanting to get out of the solar system, Rosemary jumps at the chance to join the multispecies crew as Ashby’s records clerk.
From grumpy Corbin, the algaeist who takes care of the fuel for the ship, to engineer Jenks who has a special attachment to Lovey, the ship’s Artificial Intelligence program, the crew works together. Rosemary is fascinated by Sissix, the reptilian feathered Aandrisk who is enthusiastic and much less inhibited than most humans. Dr. Chef with his multiple arms, well, what is he? A doctor? A chef? Trained to be both? Rosemary clearly has a lot to learn about the various cultures represented on the Wayfarer.
Not everything goes smoothly, but what kind of boring book would that be if everything did?
This is a fresh new look at the possible ways that humankind might launch out into the universe in future generations. What if we do overcrowd the planet? What if we do destroy our atmosphere? Who knows, maybe there are feathered Aandrisks out there somewhere, already interacting with shimmering Aeluons. Perhaps extraterrestrials are out there observing—as did the Vulcans in the Star Trek universe—waiting to see when humankind might demonstrate the capability of traveling between the stars. Or, perhaps not. But as a science fiction fan, I’d like to think that life exists beyond our visible horizons, out in the unknown.
Chambers’ characters face big moral and ethical questions. They grapple and fall down, find their footing, make life changing decisions, and go in new directions. Even though there are inter-species differences and confrontations, the Wayfarer crew members seem to care about each other. Perhaps they care too much, some to the point of interfering when their efforts might cross boundaries that cannot be reclaimed.
Beyond The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers has also written A Closed and Common Orbit. Taking a couple of characters from the first book in another direction, the second also could be read as a standalone, but I encourage you to read them in order.
*Recommended for readers who also enjoyed the “space western” television show Firefly.