The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.

This book was… entirely adequate.

Hmm. Faint praise much?

UnknownI really wasn’t sure that I would get through it, after the first fifty or so pages. And to be honest I could easily have given it up. But I thought I’d keep going, just in case… and it didn’t get worse, but it also didn’t improve. It pretty much went where I expected.

This is a story sent some ways into the future, where humanity has joined the an interspecies UN-equivalent and got themselves travelling and trading and all those sorts of things. Our Heroes are on a little spaceship that does tunnelling – the way this universe gets around the no-FTL rule (like a wormhole or tesseract basically; or like Stargat Universe?). It is, of course, a multi-species crew, and when they take a fairly major job that requires them to travel through normal space for a long time they go visiting all sorts of other species. So it ends up being a Grand Tour sort of novel.

The good: it’s well enough written. That is, I didn’t roll my eyes at many metaphors, and I didn’t get too impatient waiting for things to happen. It’s a fairly positive outlook on interspecies cooperation (sometimes more than just cooperation, eh? Eh? Nudge nudge), although not entirely positive as you would expect. I was intrigued by the notion of a human Exodus, and what that might mean for human psychology.

The indifferent: there’s a lot of info-dumping. I am not an author so I don’t know how those things could be done better, but I do think they could be. (And this from someone who adores the info dumps in books like 2312).

Almost every character on the ship had Something To Work Through, and while I appreciated the effort to make them all individual it also got a bit dull: time to explore Ashby! Done with him, time to explore Sissik! OK, time to give Rosemary her moment of angst! … and then they were fixed, and their angst didn’t seem to keep bothering them (or in the case of those who had to wait til last, they were fine – fine – fine – BAM THE WORLD IS ENDING).

The title refers to the job the crew have undertaken. They get there with 70 pages left in the novel. This shows you just how (un)important the job is in the overall story. It kinda bugged me. Maybe this is to be expected, given the title, but I still thought that the crew’s job would feature more than their interpersonal/intrapersonal issues.

It’s an easy read, the characters are varied enough not to get too annoying, and there’s an attempt to deal with some interesting issues (interspecies relationships, the rights of AIs and clones, who gets to join the UN, etc). It just wasn’t a book that lit my fires.

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