Bingo Review 5: Cannonballer Says
Still going totally out of order from the plan, and there is/was a written out plan, but this time it’s because of the timing of something coming into my local library. Anyways, I decided to request The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet because it had been an option for the June 2020 bookclub (also apparently in 2018) and some of the discussion comments made it sound interesting. It’s gotten somewhat mixed reviews by Cannonballers, but at least one was five-stars.
I was hesitant at first because it’s described as a space opera, and it is that, and that is not a genre I’ve had great luck with. I liked this one, both for the range of characters and messages of acceptance, and the lack of tons of melodrama (a factor of other space opera type stories that has annoyed me greatly).
The general premise is that Rosemary is starting a new job while trying to start over from some big thing in her recent past (you don’t find out what that is exactly until about half way into the novel); she’s joining the crew of the Wayfarer, a ship which basically does infrastructure-type work but with space travel pathways. This isn’t even the real point of the book though; that honor goes to the rest of the crew which is an assortment of species and cultures that Rosemary has to learn about and interact with. The only real complaint I have is that each of the main characters, Rosemary’s crewmates, are focused on in a really episodic way. There’s the pilot, an Aandarisk lady called Sissix, Corbin the human algaeist (some sort of algae culture is necessary for the way space travel works in this universe), the human engineers Kizzy and Jenks, both with big personalities together and individually, Dr Chef the Grum who is his title, the human captain Ashby, and the navigator Ohan who is a Sianat Pair. Pronouns, gender, and relationships are all major factors for each of the episodes where the character gets the spotlight. This takes up about 2/3 of the novel, during which Rosemary learns things about the specific individual while seeing a few new places around the galaxy/galaxies (?); I’m not sure about the exact distances involved, but that’s really not much the point anyways.
Most of the actual space opera plot is the last third, during which the crew takes a job in a risky part of space and have to deal with a race no one seems to understand or know a lot about, and naturally things go awry.
This was thankfully not one of those adventure stories that’s all gritty and hard core thankfully; it’s actually almost light, at least with the general ending. That’s not to say nothing serious comes up, it does, including trauma, the nature and context of love in various forms, and how individuals can choose to define themselves.
I was pretty glad to find out there’s a couple of sequels, which I will definitely track down at some point.