Dystopias and grimdark grittiness got you down? The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the cozy-yet-farflung, hopeful antidote to gloomy (science) fiction. Rosemary Harper is the latest addition to the crew of the Wayfarer, a long haul vessel devoted to “punching” wormholes through space for rapid galactic transit. For a human who’s never left Mars, meeting the multispecies crew and discovering the myriad cultures of the Galactic Commons’ many planets, colonies, and outposts is an eye-opening adventure. The stakes—and the rewards—are raised when the Wayfarer takes on a new commission: to make the first wormhole into the territory of the Toremi Ka, a group of aliens with a radically different, and maybe even dangerous, sort of community.
The Long Way invites the reader to hang out with a fun and diverse cast of characters who, for the most part, seem like the kind of spacefaring folks you’d unhesitatingly befriend. It’s an essentially good natured book with low conflict and enjoyable vignettes that spotlight an assortment of personalities and cultures. Though readers will find an uneven mix of both fascinatingly original and familiar-veering-into-cliche types, this is neither unexpected nor ruinous in a story with so many faces. And despite clocking in at over 400 pages, most of which are devoted to interpersonal relationships and getting to know the lay of the galaxy, it’s a lively read. Chambers delivers plenty of lore without losing the reader’s attention, and the book’s positive approach to diversity and pluralism flows organically from the story. If you’ve ever wanted to tag along on a space roadtrip, here’s your chance. There’s already a sequel waiting for you, as well.