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Sandlynn
Participant
Post count: 92

Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

26) Get a passport — for 10 years!

Read a romance involving travel to another country or to multiple countries or worlds by one or both protagonists, whether permanently or not, whether willingly or not.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, published in 2014, was nominated for a number of science fiction awards. On the cover, it’s labeled as a space opera, which according to Wikipedia, is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking (which, I assume includes stories, like Star Wars and Star Trek as well). Since I picked this book up for free at a romance book conference, I guess I can legitimately include it in this challenge.

As with Star Wars/Star Trek, I have no trouble imagining Chambers’ story becoming a serialized TV show or movie franchise (and, in fact, the author has written a couple of sequels, although I don’t think they center on this particular group of characters). In this first book, she creates a well-developed world, full of rich characterization and backstory. Our main focus is on a smallish, civilian space ship called the Wayfarer. The Wayfarer is a tunneler. The crew on board are hired to bore holes or punch through hyperspace to create tunnels from one part of space to another for quick and easy travel. This is a specialty job that takes an expert crew, who we come to know in Chambers’ story. The crew on this rather ramshackle, but well run ship, are a mixed bag of beings from all over the universe. The Captain, his two technicians (one of whom is a little person) and their new clerk are humans, although they don’t all have direct links to Earth. The pilot is a female Aandrisk, who looks to humans like a reptile with feathers and scales, the doctor/chef is a male Grum, who looks like a huge caterpillar, the navigator is a Sianat which is a thin, four-legged being with fur and an odd disease that directs their lives, the fuel specialist is also a human, but with a different background than his crew mates, and the ship’s computer also has a vivid personality. Through over 400 pages, we learn enough about all of these characters to greatly appreciate the rich and interesting societies from which they evolved, how they interact and overcome differences, and what their dreams and goals are. In fact, I would say that this book is more a character study than anything else. The plot is not terribly complicated. Basically, a new female, human clerk, who has never worked on a spaceship, comes aboard under false pretenses, running away from a scandal on her home planet, Mars. Through her, we become acquainted with everyone else.

After one of the ship’s routine “punches” or tunnel bores, the Captain decides to accept a more challenging job from the Galactic Commons – sort of a world(s) governmental body — in a very politically sensitive and unstable area of space, involving a society of beings who have been at war. In preparation for that risky job, the ship’s crew has to travel a long distance, stop at planets to stock up on food and parts, and on the way, have a number of challenging adventures that test them, including romantic ones.

I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect from this book as I am not a science fiction reader and have never heard of this author, but I was really taken by how rich her world-building is and how thorough her descriptions are of the many types of beings that populate this story. Each crew member gets their turn at having their home cultures fleshed out, to some extent. The plot, itself, is kind of flimsy as the book is more of a serialization of the crews’ trip across the universe to its next job and whether that challenging task is ultimately worth the danger in which it puts them. There’s a bit of moralizing and theorizing on all kinds of things like intermingling of species, discrimination, war, militarization, corruption, love, responsibility, friendship and the imposition of one’s morality on others. The actual job which compels the action and its consequences takes up only the last fifth of the book. So, it might have been nice to have that part fleshed out more. Still, at the end of the day, we find that it’s the journey that’s more important. I’d give this a B+ and would happily read the sequels.

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The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 5 down, 13 to go