In my post a couple of weeks ago I spoke about how I’d like to start reading more science fiction, and so when I saw Alastair Reynolds’ book Revenger in Waterstones I snapped it up. I ended up liking it so much that I immedietely followed it up by reading another space-opera style book with Becky Chambers’ The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, which was on sale on Kindle. I ended up loving it even more than Revenger, in fact it was one of the best book I’ve read in a long time!
Check out my reviews below:
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
‘A voice buzzed from the wall.
“Listen, all of you. This is Bosa speaking. It’s all over. Bosa’s got your ship, Bosa’s got your loot, Bosa’s about to have the pick of your crew.’ The voice was the one I’d already heard: distorted, gashed over with static and feedback, looped over itself in strange echoes and stutters, just barely recognisable as the product of a female larynx.’
When Adrana and Arafura Ness sign up to Captain Rackamore’s crew for a life of adventure and to save their family from financial ruin, they get much more than they bargained for. Because Captain Rackamore has enemies, including the fabled pirate Bosa Sennen, and the catastrophic events of one terrible day leads Fura on a revenge mission that she will stop at nothing to accomplish.
I found this book to be fairly slow starting, but not in a way that made me want to put it down… Whilst the two main characters give their father the slip within the first chapter, and are hired onto Captain Rackamore’s ship in the second, it’s quite a while before the event that triggers the title ‘revenge’ actually happens.
This gives plenty of time to introduce the many characters and the premise of the novel: Rackamore’s ship is one that ‘cracks baubles’, which basically involves visiting forgotten planets from times gone by and taking the lost treasure left behind there. I wasn’t overly sold on this idea, as it seemed a little convoluted (I never quite got why you can’t just go to these planets anytime… apparently they seem to close up or something, but how does a planet ‘close’?), but thankfully this only serves as the backdrop to the story, and things really pick up when Fura takes on her revenge mission.
In fact, the events that set everything off genuinely surprised and shocked me with their suddenness, and I don’t think you can say that often about a book! Although this book is billed as Alastair Reynolds first foray into YA fiction, it’s actually incredibly dark and violent, but I liked the gritty vibe it had, and the action kept me interested.
And that was really my favourite thing about this book: the characters and the action. Fura makes for an interesting main character in that she really grows and develops throughout the novel, starting off as a meek, sheltered teenager, and becoming much harder and tougher throughout, and stepping out of her much bolder sister’s shadow. I also really liked her relationship with Prozor, the tough, grumpy ‘bauble reader’ who reluctantly becomes Fura’s friend and mentor. I didn’t find myself getting overly emotionally attached to the characters in the way I often do with books or even liking them overmuch as people, but this seemed like a book that was more about the action and story than anything.
The book also had a good villain in space pirate Bosa Sennen, because even though she has fairly limited ‘screen time’ she comes across as truly terrifying. She’s horrifically sadistic and violent, and her reputation for being pure evil is drilled into you throughout the book, and this only makes Fura’s determination to find her seem even crazier.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, although it wasn’t without its’ flaws. There was the odd case of bad dialogue, and as I have said, some of the rules of the world (or universe) Reynolds has created didn’t work that well for me (including some of the names they have for things, like oxygen being called ‘lungstuff’, and some old artefacts being ‘ghosty stuff’). However, it was a fun, action-packed space adventure with a great atmosphere to it, and it definitely made me want to read more science fiction/space opera stuff!
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
‘“Ninety percent of all problems are caused by people being assholes.”
“What causes the other ten percent?” asked Kizzy.
“Natural disasters,” said Nib.”’
Fleeing a terrible family situation back home on Mars, the quiet, introspective Rosemary Harper joins the motley crew of the Wayfarer, a patched-up ship with the job of tunnelling wormholes through space. To her surprise and delight, Rosemary finds life aboard the Wayfarer much better than expected, as she begins to fit in with the her new crew mates. However, when the crew of the Wayfarer decides to tackle their biggest job yet, they can’t foresee the assortment of trials and tribulations they are going to have to face…
People have been telling me to read this book since forever, but I kept putting it off, as I always felt like I ‘had to be in the mood’ for anything space-opera related… However, riding the wave from Revenger, I finally decided to tackle The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet and really can’t believe it took me so long to get to it! I don’t think I’ve loved a collection of characters as much since Six of Crows, and that’s high praise indeed!
They were just such a great mix of personalities ranging from grumpy and obnoxious to quirky and irreverent, and that’s not to mention the pure adorableness that is Lovey, the ship’s AI. From the very beginning I found myself drawn into the crew, which for all their differences is like an imperfectly perfect family, and I loved all the funny banter and teasing that happens between them.
I really liked how when the book opens we follow Rosemary, the newcomer to the ship, as we’re introduced to the crew of the Wayfarer, but then throughout the book the third person narration opens out to spotlight different characters. It was nice to get the perspectives on events from various different characters, and especially the non-human characters like Sissix, as she sees things completely differently from some of the others. It also helps with the fact that several of the characters have secrets which were gradually revealed throughout the book, and it allows us to see what they’re going through, and how they relate to the rest of the crew.
I also liked how the romantic pairings in this book weren’t obvious from the outset. Generally when you begin a book you can immediately tell who the love interests are, which whilst not a problem, does make things kind of predictable. However, there was some great but unexpected pairings here, and I liked how in the future universe Becky Chambers has envisioned there has been such advancement that a majority of people are completely accepting of all love, regardless of the people’s gender, and even species.
In fact, the level of acceptance and diversity in this book was one of the things that made it such a ‘feel-good’ read for me. No big deal is made of characters being gay, or having a physical disability, or having no gender, or changing genders, and the different species all have different beliefs but actually try and understand one another rather than insisting that they alone are right… Put simply, if the future looks anything like it does in The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet then it’ll be a much better place!
All in all, this was a really wonderful book! It wasn’t what I expected, coming into a science fiction book, as it was much more character driven than plot driven (in fact the plot feels quite episodic, but it worked well!), but I absolutely adored everything about it. It’s essentially a book about friendship, love and acceptance that just happens to be set in a well-drawn future version of our universe, and I can’t wait to get round to reading A Closed and Common Orbit!
So have you read Revenger or The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet? What did you think?