Published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 13th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.
But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.
Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.
It took me 2 weeks but that was a damn good read! I love the sci-fi game Mass Effect and this book is possibly the best fictional space opera I’ve ever read.
Centered around a crew made up of humans, aliens and AI, The Long Way explores their character dynamics and the way of their species. It slowly builds up such an authentic world of space and different species co-existing with one another, despite their differences in beliefs and ways of life. But it’s just such a joy to experience different relationships and people from different walks of life without prejudice.
The characters are the best part of the book, each one left with their own struggles and beliefs and finding a kinship in each other. Each of these characters are developed over the course of the book, as you discover the intricacies of their existence and why they have joined the Wayfarer crew.
There’s Captain Ashby, a humanitarian who treats his crew like his own family, even when they don’t get along. He’s harbouring a forbidden romance that is fraught with danger, but sometimes the heart wants what it does.
Then there’s Sissix, a beautiful bird-like Aandrisk who has to tone down the way of her species to blend in. She’s wise and grounded, and acts as Ashby’s confidante during the best and worst of times.
Kizzy and Jenks are both techs on the ship who have very different approaches to life – Kizzy, who is vivacious and intuitive in nature, and Jenks, who is more serious and pensive given his smaller form and disability. His relationship with the ship’s AI Lovey was definitely a unique and different one, but as with all the other relationships in the book, it’s presented so beautifully and without judgement that you’ll eventually come around.
There’s also Dr Chef, with his dual roles who experiments with different alien cuisines and Ohan, a strange and rare navigator who doesn’t really interact much with the crew. The book’s central character is actually Rosemary, a clerk who has a hidden past.
The plot is actually pretty light on, as the crew undergo a mission to explore a dangerous territory in space. As with many sci-fi books, there’s definitely some spaceship action here, but it’s much less than you would expect. It’s more of an experiential journey, as you discover different planets, encounter strange species and foods, explore different cafes and tech markets and terrain and learn about unique alien languages, thoughts and customs.
If you’re looking for a sci-fi read that explores different alien species and planets, definitely pick this up! I loved it for its unique commentary on interplanetary gathering. It does diversity in a really beautiful, non-judgemental way with loving acceptance between different species. With friendship, understanding, an open mind, The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet shows us what it means to not only accept each other, but to live in harmonious co-existence.
Rating: 5 out of 5
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette Australia on October 20th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
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Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who's determined to help her learn and grow.
Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for - and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.
A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers' beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.
Given how much I loved the first book, I went into A Closed and Common Orbit with high hopes. As with any spin-off or companion novel, we are introduced to new characters who briefly appeared in the first book, and I missed the old crew.
We are introduced to Lovelace/Sidra, the ship’s AI who is now in a technologically advanced human body. She learns how to be human from Pepper, the vivacious but sometimes closed-off engineer. It was fascinating seeing the black market technology which makes Lovelace’s circumstances possible, such as the fake stomach which allows her to eat and the red food dye which appears when her skin is punctured. Through her character arc, she learns about friendship, acceptance and what it means to be human.
Her perspective is interchanged with Pepper’s past when she was Jane 23, a genetically engineered child who comes from a bleak, dystopian world. After escaping a factory filled with children similar to herself, she has no one for companionship but her ship’s AI Owl, who acts as her mentor, companion and parent. I loved seeing Pepper as she was in Sidra’s life, and the past which she had endured, which gave off an overwhelming feeling of hope. I preferred Sidra’s perspective over Jane’s, because I didn’t know where Jane’s story was going, but I’m pleased to say the journey is worth it in the end.
Like the first book, A Closed and Common Orbit is rather slow-paced and focuses on the detail and character development, rather than having a strong plot. It dives deeper into the black market and some of the alien species which the first book touched upon. Unlike A Long Way though, there’s fewer characters to focus on with more development occurring for Sidra and Jane. The side characters here, Tak and Blue paled in comparison.
From an AI learning to become human, to a human learning from an AI, I loved the contrast between Sidra and Pepper’s stories. It’s a slower paced, emotional read that really pulls at the heart strings as both characters navigate an unfamiliar environment. It was touching seeing each character learn to be human, the ups and downs that come with it and appreciating the creature comforts that we all take for granted, such as clean food, health, companionship and shelter. These books are diverse, emotional, beautifully accepting sci-fi with a difference.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks Hachette Australia for sending me a review copy of this book.