The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

When I first started reading science fiction women writers were still an anomaly. They existed but generally weren’t the first writers thought of when talking about the great sci-fi authors. Even those writing wrote under male or gender-ambiguous names like Andre Norton and C.J. Cherryh. When I was in my later teens I became more aware of women writers like Doris Lessing, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Joanna Russ. Even then they were often dismissed by some fans as lacking hard science or being too “social” in their topics. It was crap but look at how women in gaming are still treated. So in my ancient years it’s still exciting when a really excellent woman writer gets published.

This is the first published novel by Becky Chambers who now has two books in print. What a wonderful start to a really promising career. It’s stacked with wonderful characters and there’s a great balance of humor, action, and interesting science.

The book begins with a woman named Rosemary who has been hired as a clerk on a ship that tunnels gateways in space for an ever-growing galactic alliance. The ship is crewed by a unique group of individuals: a hyper-energetic mechanic (Kizzi was my favorite character) and a well tattooed small person in love with the ship’s artificial intelligence known as “Lovey”, a reptilian from a planet where touch and community are essential and now lonely among humans and their privacy issues, a super-cranky fuel specialist, and a pair of alien beings with a virus allowing them to navigate in the strange reality of tunneling … all lead by a human captain who maintains a secret affair with a warrior from another race. With the addition of Rosemary they’re identified as being professional enough for a really big job creating a brand new ungated tunnel to a race living near the center of the galaxy. A race notorious for being extremely xenophobic and pugnacious.

Parts of the book made me laugh out loud and parts near the end made me weepy. The whole thing is a joy to read. Several reader reviewers have compared it to Firefly, with a small eccentric crew, but as much as I enjoyed that series the book is fully formed of it’s own unique perspectives. The book is now billed as Wayfarers #1, with #2 (A Closed and Common Orbit) as her latest book in the same universe but a standalone novel with two characters from this book.