BECKY CHAMBERS – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Wayfarers #1. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, ebook, March 2015; hardcover/trade paperback, August 2015. Harper Vpyager, trade paperbark, July 2016.

   Space opera as a subgenre of science fiction is making a comeback, and I for one, am quite pleased about that. To tell you the truth, though, over the past 20 years, I’d all but given up on science fiction as a field that held any interest to me. The old-fashioned kind of reading material was still being written; it was simply too difficult for me to keep abreast of the field and, in particular, who was still writing it.

   I won’t bother you any further with my problems. I’ve finally caught up with this book, the first in a series of three so far, and I’m glad I did. It’s a longish book, nearly 450 pages, and it took me nearly forever to finish it, but since in many ways it is largely plotless, it didn’t seem to make any difference if I was only able to read 40 pages or so every night or so.

   There is an overall story, mind you, but The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet consists mostly as a series of adventures the crew of the Wayfarer undergo as they make their way to their next job, which is that of punching “wormholes” in space from one established station to another which has no outlet on the other end.

   All this is fine, and the climax comes when they discover what it waiting for them at the other end of their journey, but the pleasure in reading this long odyssey comes through the relationships beteen the various members of the crew:

   The newly hired clerk Rosemary Harper, to begin with (human), who has to be introduced to the others very early on: other humans Captain Ashby and grumpy algaeist Corbin; Sissix, the Aandrisk (lizard-like) co-pilot; Dr. Chef, the perpetually outgoing Grum doctor and cook; the reclusive navigators and Sianat pair named Ohan; Kizzy and Jenks, both human but living in their own world of mech tech; and last but not least, Lovelace (Lovey), the AI who has supervisory control of the whole ship.

   Even though the crew faces many obstacles on the voyage, including an intense encounter with pirates, the overall feeling of the crew is that these as nice people, aliens or not, and they can figure out how to fix any strained relationships that occur along the way. Not treacly nice, but people who can manage to get along in close quarters very nicely. There, I’ve said the word again!