Pictured: the two covers for the United States release of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. They’re quite obviously paying homage to two of my favorite series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Firefly. Which basically sums up the book itself. If you like either of those series, you’ll like this.
“That’s such an incredibly organic bias, the idea that your squishy physical existence is some sort of pinnacle that all programs aspire to.”
So sometime in the far, far future, Earth has self-destructed and humans (the rich ones fled to Mars prior to the collapse, while the poorer ones became space travelers) have finally been accepted to an intergalactic league called the Galactic Commons. Rosemary Harper, a human clerk trying to escape her history on Mars, joins a deep space ship called the Wayfarer to basically do their books while they travel through space, punching holes in it to make pathways. The ship’s pilot and “mech tech” are both humans — the rest of the crew is made up with various alien species plus a sentient AI named Lovey. They take a job with a dangerous group, and go on various adventures in the process.
There’s a whole plot about this alien group called Toremi that have hired them, but the real draw here is the way Chambers (who used to write for the Mary Sue, and self-published this novel with help from fans on Kickstarter) sets up all the other alien species. She introduces at least half a dozen, each with unique appearances, customs and ways of communicating. She puts incredible detail into each, and the way they all interact makes it feel very real. The stops they make, the time spent on various planets — it’s a real adventure filled with rich details, and I’m thrilled to learn that a sequel comes out in October. This is a universe worth spending time in.