Appearently, it’s really hard for me to form a proper opinion on The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I have so any different thoughts that I can’t seem to be able to boil it down to a rating.

In cases like this, I like to browse through the other reviews and see which sentiments and thoughts resonate with me the most. In the past, this has often given form to my opinion, by voicing my thoughts in a way that I apparently can’t. Unfortunately in this case, I find that there’s a lot of truth (for me at least) in both good and bad reviews.

So, let’s just make a list of those thoughts/sentiments, in no particular order. Even if I don’t manage to come up with a clear opinion, at least I’ll be able to reflect on them later, or they might even help someone else resonate a bit.

  1. This is definitely a character-driven book, and even though I knew that going in, for some reason, I wasn’t exactly prepared for it. There is very little going on, which isn’t to say that there isn’t a whole world galaxy being built, complete with different races and politics, but it all (literally) occurs OUTSIDE of the spaceship, and therefor takes a major backseat to the overall story. The things that do happen, often feel tacked on as a mere plot device to build more character background / relations. Which bugged me quite a lot, every time it happened.

    2 examples of this (but there are many more):

    • Space pirates turning up right after our newbie has arrived and apparently she's the only one that can 'save' their asses from 'greedy' pirates, using some tidbit of knowledge which she just happens to remember from that one class that she took that one time. All just to build her 'rep' with the other crew mates.
    • Apparently, the galaxy might be pretty large, but when they're flying out to the core (where almost no one else is), and they pick up a distress signal in the middle of nowhere, it just happens to be the ship of the other-species lover of our dear captain. What luck that the ships Technician is able to fix the alien ship with no trouble, and in the process just happens to spot the 34+ mines that are hidden in the wall, which she luckily can defuse with little to no problem.

    Turns out the universe isn’t such a big place after all and coincidence is all over the place.

  2. Continuing on with the worldgalaxybuilding, it is actually, surprisingly good. Throughout the book you get a feel for the recent history of the Galactic Commons, for the different races that it’s made up off and how the human species fit into it all. The different species are also described surprisingly well. Not only are they all sufficiently biologically diverse (not just different variations on bipedal humanoid), but they also have their own history, religion, motivation, politics, quirks, etc.. They all feel unique enough to make believeable backdrop for the main story.

  3. As usual I combined the ebook with the audiobook and I have to admit that Rachel Dulude does an EXCELLENT job narrating this. Especially her impersonation of Kizzy, an adult version of a 13yo fan girl, was outstanding.

  4. The writing is solid and is easy to follow. Which, in a complex universe with different species and worlds, is actually impressive. I never felt lost in its galaxy and always got the right information when I needed it, without it being overdone and patronizing.

    One tidbit that I have to bring up though, it must have slipped through the editing process, but there was this one line that completely tripped me up. So badly in fact, that I had to look it up.

    He had been in homes like this before — sturdy, ramshackle dwellings made from whatever a few hard-working pairs of colonist hands could scrounge up.

    I’m sorry, but there is NO way that I can envision what she means by that. Google even states that they are opposites. There was one other instance of this that jarred my immersion, but I couldn’t find it again.

  5. I loved the philosophy behind sentient AI’s and their right to exist and self-control. Even if it was wrapped in a cheesy ‘we-can’t-be-together’-love story. The thoughts behind it are very interesting to explore and the character of ‘Lovey’ Lovelace was very cool and her story arc was arguably the best. Maybe that’s just because I’m a tech nerd that’s really into SciFi and AI’s at the moment, who knows.

  6. In my opinion there was too much emphasis on the characters that we are supposed to love and way too little on the other members of the cast, who seem to be a lot more interesting. Corbin, I’m looking at you here, the mini-arc he got was way to short (and a little too (ch)easy)

  7. So much cheesyness! At times it felt like watching one of those romance movies, with clichés all around and cheesy lines to tie them together. This is definitely not something I enjoy, especially not when it’s stretched out way to thin.

    Hellooo Rosemary and Sizzix 'foreplay'. What the hell was that? I get that the author wanted to convey how awkward the whole inter-species culture clash can be, but does that mean she has to make the whole reading experience awkard too? I was literally exclaiming how boring it all was, only to climax the entire ordeal with a proper 'fade-to-black-sex-scene'. Apart from the awkard foreplay, the whole relationship was so unbelieveable it made me cringe.
  8. There’s also this whole ‘Firefly’ vibe going on from page 1 and it never really went away. Firefly really was a cheesy show with thin plot lines and questionable acting, but then again, so was pretty much everything from that era. If Becky Chambers was going for this athmosphere, she has succeeded. But just as when I watched Firefly (not that long ago), I can’t help but thinking that I would have enjoyed it (the show) and this (the book) a lot more, if I had read it when I was about 10 years younger.

I think that all the cheesyness, combined with the uncanny plot devices & the many ex machinas made it all so unreal that the magic of the characters simply went straight out the window and into the void. Look at that, it seems I have reached a conclusion, of sorts. I think I will continue with the next installment, hoping that my overal qualms will be silenced. I'm also really curious to see if the story arc of 'Lovey' / 'Lovelace' will reach a satisfying conclusion

Rating wise, I think I’ll leave it at a solid 3 stars. I liked it, but there was too much jarring me to love it.

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