The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to me as a cure for the heavy, blood and guts diet that's so prevalent in today's SF/F, I was more than just a little bit interested in an antidote.
What I found, instead, was a heartily tasty meal of perfectly prepared insects aboard the Wayfarer, enjoying wonderful conversations and a surprisingly diverse collection of humans, aliens, and a truly beautiful soul within an AI.
I mean, this is space-opera. Don't get the wrong idea. There's a couple of tight spots, thievery and tragic death. We are invited into ideologically divisive pockets of space and culture, the breaking of laws, and of course we get paid well to do a skilled job equally well.
But what I hadn't expected was the love.
There was a lot of love in these pages. Not just of the author to her extremely well-drawn characters, but between the characters themselves, hidden in nooks and crannies, blazingly obvious in other instants, and as wide and complex as the worlds the individuals came from. In other words, we got just the tip of the iceberg, and our imaginations fill in so much of the rest, to our delight.
So is this space-opera, or not? Of course it is! But think of it more like distilling and creating anew some of those old favorites, bits and pieces here from Babylon 5, ST:TNG, Red Dwarf, or even a taste of Enterprise. The tropes are familiar, but the tale-crafter, her worlds, and her spacecraft is most certainly not.
She's made something delightful and new, humorous and lovely, and at one point I would have said this whole novel would have been a light read, but no, there's real meat here. There's anger and hope and desperation with all the love and humor.
It feels real, and it touches my heart.
So did it heal my pained MilSF heart, my PTSD Fantasy mind?
Maybe not entirely, but it is certainly a very excellent palliative and perhaps with a few more gems like this, I might just be able to rejoin the service once again. :)
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