Review – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Posted August 17, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 10 Comments

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

I know there are people for whom this book leaves them entirely cold — whether the whole story falls apart for them, or the setting, or they see massive problems with certain plot points… I tried to read it more critically this time, ready to see those things and understand where they’re coming from. It didn’t work; I fell in love all over again and devoured it whole in about five seconds flat. Well, not quite, but you get the idea.

It’s the found family thing that gets me every single time, I think: the way they’ll cover for each other and work to understand each other and accept each other no matter what. This is mostly a book about good people, perhaps implausibly so: with almost everything any of them do, you can believe that they’re doing it because they think it’s right, and that it’s the right thing to do. (There is a major exception for me which I’ll discuss in a moment.) I can understand people who aren’t hooked by that, who don’t find it believable or can’t even get invested because the conflict feels implausible to them… but it’s catnip to me, apparently.

I do hate the whole plotline with Ohan, I’m afraid. Even as my heartstrings are tugged by the results of it, I loathe that Corbin takes away Ohan’s self-determination, and chooses things for them that they don’t want. I hate that the reader is manipulated into being glad about that, and to think that Corbin essentially does the right thing. Nope nope nope nope nope. It’s the dark spot in this book for me: I understand why it’s there, and I can’t help but love the bit with Dr Chef at the end… but the decision made for Ohan is not something I’m actually comfortable with.

It doesn’t darken the rest of the book for me, and as ever I actually cried cathartically for almost the last 50 pages of the book… but it’s worth knowing about, particularly if you have a disability or mental illness where other people think they know better than you about your own body. It’s very discomforting, and it’s worth knowing before you go in if that’s something you might be sensitive about.

I just love almost all the characters so much; Sissix is so darn awesome, Ashby’s a darling, Kizzy’s like Firefly’s Kaylee on speed (almost literally)… It all comes together so well for me. Pitched perfectly to my id, I guess!

Rating: 4/5

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10 responses to “Review – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

    • It’s really lovely, and not hard SF at all (apart from maybe one bit about how the tunnelling works… but pretty sure it is not real physics). I recommend it!

  1. Cantras

    Hrm. Maybe I’m just successfully manipulated, or maybe I grew up on the animorphs books. I can see that reading of Ohan, and I was uncomfortable with Corbin’s actions in the *moment,* but.
    We are obviously outsiders looking in, but from the outside looking in, everyone is infected with a deadly disease that spreads itself by taking over its host’s brain so that they infect others and think it’s shameful to clear the disease or even resist it in the first place. Everyone who says the virus is good HAS the virus, and per the colony guy it’s the virus speaking. It’s like an intelligence zombie virus, or Yeerks, or various parasitic critters like toxoplasmosis making rats go outside in the daytime so they can be eaten by the next host.
    I also see it parallel to cult deprogramming, or leaving a cult-adjacent mainstream sect. We’re *told* (by the virus) that this is the shame-colony and must be shunnnnned and not listened to, people who have left the cult cannot be trusted, etc, but we never see a community of people who left the cult and are now miserable [other than what misery is caused by the cult shunning them].

    I’d probably have really different feelings if Ohan-singular felt differently about it, and in the moment there was no way to know how he’d feel at the end. Corbin was absolutely making a choice that Ohan-plural said they didn’t want, and I can see why the rest of the ship would let ohan-plural make that choice, they probably feel the same way you do, Prime Directive, etc. But the fact Ohan-singular sought out Corbin to hang out with, and was happy to keep going, says to me that what “ohan plural” wanted was the virus talking.

    I guess i think it can be “a choice Corbin had no right to make for Ohan-plural” and “in retrospect, the right thing to do” both.

    • Yeah, I struggle with it as well, for pretty much the same reasons. But it doesn’t help that I know, for example, a friend of mine thinks of me being queer in the same way: if she could only inject me with the cure, I would realise I was wrong all along. It’s somewhat ameliorated in the book because Ohan seems to be grateful (though we don’t get his POV as we got Ohan-plural’s, so we don’t know for sure what he feels now). But it also makes me think about things like the way a lot of hearing people think that Deaf people must all want a “cure”… and of course some do, and some really, really don’t.
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