[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 1

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Banner by Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings
Banner by Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

IT’S HERE! Welcome to the first week of my very first solo-organised Read Along! And I am so excited to finally start digging into this story and sharing my thoughts on it.

This week we’re taking a look at Part 1 – “Transit” to “The Job” – with my excitable self on hosting duties. In this section, we get our intros and our setup done in style…

(NOTE: There will be spoilers below the cut! If you don’t want to be spoiled, look away now!)

First things first, we get to meet the central cast – the crew of the Wayfarer. What are your first impressions of this crew? Which members, if any, stand out the most to you and why?

OK! I have a lot of interest in most of the crew here, so let’s break that down a bit:

Rosemary – She is intriguing to me from the very start. Even as we’re ‘meeting’ her for the first time, the narrative is pretty upfront about the fact that she’s leaving some shocking secret behind her, and has worked pretty hard to do it. No mysterious baby steps, then! Right away, she’s put in the role of Mysterious Lady. Has she done something wrong that she needs to run from, or was something done to her? Will she be pursued or is her conscience going to be what catches up to her? WHO KNOWS.

Ashby – Right away, Ashby’s also interesting to me. He is refreshingly ego-free for a captain! He does, however, plainly run a tight ship – and I think the way he handles his crew members is interesting at times, in a clever sort of way. We see this quite clearly in how he handles Corbin during the first scene in which we meet both of these men:

Corbin was indignant. ‘They don’t come cheap! She did it just to get at me, I know she did. If that selfish lizard can’t-‘
‘Hey!’ Ashby sat up straight. ‘Not okay. I don’t want to hear that word come out of your mouth again.’ As far as racial insults went, lizard was hardly the worst, but it was bad enough.
Corbin pressed his lips together, as if to keep further unpleasantness from escaping. ‘Sorry.’
Ashby’s hackles were up, but truthfully, this was an ideal way for a conversation with Corbin to go. Get him away from the crew, let him vent, wait for him to cross a line, then talk him down while he was feeling penitent. […] Corbin was obviously still angry, but even he knew better than to bite the hand that feeds. Corbin knew that he was a valuable asset, but at the end of the day, Ashby was the one who sent credits to his account. Valuable was not the same as irreplaceable.
(“A Complaint”, p.9-10)

Clever man! In a buy-him-a-drink-but-maybe-don’t-insult-his-friends way. And that brings us to Corbin who, as regards the quote above, had just done exactly that. He’s the Not So Pleasant one, then. He’s antisocial and more than a bit abrupt when he can’t be off by himself as is his preference, but interestingly, it’s only when he crosses that line Ashby refers to and uses a derogatory slur (a relatively mild one, but still) in reference to Sissix, another crew member, that Ashby actually forces him to toe a line, and to his credit, Corbin does it.

…I’m still not convinced that punishing him by making him be the first person to greet Rosemary when she comes aboard was really the best solution since it doesn’t seem to have made Corbin any LESS antisocial, but hey, at least he tried…!

Kizzy & Jenks – I’m taking these two together here since that’s basically how we meet them, and they are apparently the crew’s comedy double act, at least as far as first impressions go. Kizzy is fairly full-throttle manic pixie-ish, which the cynical little part of me suspects is going to be a tiny bit too much over the course of a full novel, but mostly I adore her anyway. She IS pretty darned adorable, and evidence suggests she’s got plenty of brains to go with her perkiness.

Jenks, though, definitely fascinates me. He’s clearly the more down-to-earth (so to speak) yin to Kizzy’s yang, though they have enough in common to be such good friends. Beyond that, the fact that his nearest and most dearest is Lovey, the ship’s AI, might say a lot either about his general view of people on the whole, or about his ability to really connect emotionally with them…? I mean yes, the evidence suggesting that the ship’s tech has fallen in love with its AI is maybe a bit worrying, but I think it makes Jenks endearing in a sad but sweet sort of way…

On that note, I suspect that Lovey, or Lovelace (really enjoying that little nod with her name, by the way) is deserving of as much attention as a character, here. I feel like I have to censor what I say at this point to avoid giving away spoilers that aren’t covered in this section, but yes! More on Lovey later…

Ohan – on to the aliens! Ohan is up first, because SO MUCH about them intrigues me. First of all, they get nonbinary gender pronouns. And how! The idea of Sianat Pairs, and how they voluntarily ‘infect’ themselves with a virus all for their beliefs, is deeply interesting and kind of terrifying at the same time. As someone who’s pretty firmly non-religious, I admit to being a little unnerved by that. On the other hand, Ohan seems really sweet and likeable… And here’s where the need to edit myself rears its head again, but yes! I really like Ohan so far.

Dr Chef – another of the representing aliens on the Wayfarer, and he loves food! I love him. I love everything about Dr Chef. Even though he looks like a really weird talking hybrid crab-centipede-human in my head (I just have phobias, don’t mind me). But he’s so lovely! And HE COOKS AMAZING FOOD. Anybody who can make me at all fascinated instead of appalled by the idea of eating bugs earns their points in my book.

Sissix – I think Sissix (right alongside Dr Chef and Ohan) is definitely the one who interests me the most, though admittedly I’m basing this on what I know about her from having read the book once already. With that in mind, as with Lovey and Ohan, I can’t say very much about why I feel this way (yet!), but as the smart, socially conscious but no-nonsense alien lady, Sissix has plenty of reasons to be fascinating! I will absolutely be talking more about her in the coming weeks.

Rosemary gets a rather entertaining physics lesson regarding space tunnelling from Kizzy, upon her first full day as a crew member. What are your thoughts on the science part of the fiction?

First and foremost, I love that the science isn’t getting in the way of the enjoyment! It’s kept to story-relevant levels, and explained in ways that make it as entertaining as it is impressive to think about. Better yet, during the lesson in question we get to see a little more of the dynamics between crew members, as Dr Chef is present for Kizzy’s explanation of what the Wayfarer does. Example:

‘Aww!’ said Kizzy, clasping her hands over her heart. ‘You’re a physics virgin! Okay, okay, we’ll keep this simple.’ She looked around the counter for props. ‘Okay, cool, here. The area above my bowl of porridge’ – she gestured importantly – ‘is the fabric of space. The porridge itself is the sublayer – basically the space in between space. And this groob’ – she picked up a small black fruit from her plate – ‘is the Wayfarer.’
‘Oh, I can’t wait to see this,’ Dr Chef said, resting his top arms on the opposite side of the counter.
[…]
Rosemary nodded toward the porridge. ‘So how do we get out of the sublayer?’
‘Okay,’ Kizzy said. She started pushing the groob through the porridge. ‘Once we get to our exit point, we bust back through.’ She shoved a spoon under the groob, catapult style, and raised her fist.
‘Kizzy,’ said Dr Chef, his voice even. ‘If you launch porridge all over my nice clean countertop-‘
‘I won’t. I just realised this won’t work. My genius demonstration is flawed.’ She frowned. ‘I can’t fold porridge.’
(“Technical Details”, p.65-66)

I loved this scene, and I think the mental image of a tunnel in space being … dug? Formed? Constructed? is impressive as hell. More science please! Porridge optional.

We go into the story aware that Rosemary is hiding something from the rest of the crew, and that she’s gone to great lengths to do so. Any ideas/suspicions/speculation you’d like to share on what her secret might be?

Aha! Okay, I admit that this question is one I included mostly to get other people’s take on that one. Since I’ve read the book before, I can’t really say anything here without giving away massive plot spoilers for later. In the interests of keeping my spoilers to the relevant chapters, I’ll recuse myself from answering and just wait to see what everyone else thinks! *Grin*

Ashby scores a huge job – and a huge potential payout – for the Wayfarer, but it means possibly having to get mixed up in a violent civil war. What do you make of what we know so far about the Toremi?

The Necessary Bad Guys, basically, or so they seem… And that’s more interesting than it might sound at this stage!

From what I’ve gathered about the crew of the Wayfarer, and about general racial attitudes at this point in the fictional future, a great deal of the uglier side of society seems to have been left behind after all the venturing forth into space, and I find this really encouraging. I mean, everything is certainly not a bed of roses and everybody loving everybody else, but if the solid sense of camaraderie and safe space that I got from the Wayfarer and its crew is any indication of how things typically are, then this fictional future is absolutely one to aspire to. There’s no dystopian horror in space here.

…Unless, maybe, you count the Toremi. Because again, nothing’s perfect. People are still driven by need, and the Toremi have something The People need. Somebody’s got to be the bad guy, and all signs point to them taking that role. But at this stage, they’re the galactic bogeyman, really; we don’t know much about them, and thanks to their own insular (and really violent) culture, that’s been inevitable so far…

I can’t say very much more at this point, but the fact that the beginnings of an alliance are forming here is kind of unnerving. DO YOU NOT SEE THE SIGNS HERE, SENSIBLE FUTURE PEOPLE?!

On that potentially doom-laden note, I will sign off here and get my excitable self back to reading! Join us again next Friday for Part Two, and if you missed the schedule, you can find it here. There’s also the SF/F Read Alongs Goodreads group, where you can keep up with post links and/or join us in future, if you’re keen!

See you guys next time…

 

10 thoughts on “[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 1

  1. Oh I completely forgot to mention my love for Lovelace’s name! That made me so so happy :D. All your hints about the future are making me really excited to keep reading 😀

  2. “like a really weird talking hybrid crab-centipede-human in my head” – Oh, dear, this is frightening 😛 I imagined him more like Heimlich from A Bug’s Life!! I wanted him sooo much to be huggable, haha. And yes, Jenks’ relationship with Lovey is all kinds of sweet so far (and it does add that little bit of sadness/sweetheart to Jenks’ personality which is so much at odds with the trollish behavior we see in the other chapters). And I definitely want to hear more about Sissix. I loved that convo between her and Ashby at the end of “The Project”, that was the scene that really warmed me up to Sissix.

    And the whole time Kizzy was using the porridge and spoon to describe physics, I was totally expecting there to be porridge splatter everywhere by the end of it. And yes, the Toremi are sounding like “galactic bogeymen”, but I am kind of sort of wanting the Wayfarer to get into trouble with them so we can learn a whole lot more 😛 Also, if possible, am wishing the Wayfarer might somehow end up in the neighborhood of the Kaj’Met Expanse, just so, you know, we can get a closer look at it! Hehe.

  3. You’ve made excellent points, Rinn. I wrote descriptions of all the characters and as I re-read them thought “this is the most interesting character” then I’d read about another and think “no, this one!” I like that each character is very distinct, but ended up picking Dr Chef. Hard to think of someone who is one of the last of his species.

    Really enjoying this book!

      1. Ha! It’s OK. Tired happens. 😉 And I am loving the character-study aspect of the book; it can make a nice change of pace from action-packed dramasplosions in space!

  4. I picked Kizzy and Dr. Chef as the characters that stood out most for me (they do have a way of commanding all your attetnion!) but when I read your character write ups I am reminded there’s so much I love about the others too. That one scene with Jenks and the AI was so sweet. I’m interested to see where that thread will go.

    1. Yes! I was initially going to ask about favourite characters, but I thought “which ones stand out” was a better way of putting it at this point in the book, because picking a favourite is really difficult for me and I’ve already read it once! The cast really is amazing here.

  5. This book is a lot of fun so far. I’ve actually read the first half so far (wanted to finish the second week early enough to come up with the questions for Galleywampus) so I may not be able to answer a few of the questions myself.

    1. The non-human characters are especially interesting. Dr. Chef is amazing–such a loving, caring, joy-filled being. Sissix was an excellent being to take over Rosemary’s tour.

    As far as humans go, Kizzy is hilarious. I love it when she is singing ‘Socks Match My Hat.’ I died. She seems like she would fit into the “Firefly” cast in a perfectly shiny way. I actually would really like to see a television version of this. Maybe a miniseries. Then we can all argue about how nobody looks like we expected.

    2. The science is entertaining. It isn’t ‘hard science’ but it is sciency enough to satisfy the needs of the average sci-fi fan, and not so conceptually far afield to feel pointless. I think the discussions are appropriately science-based for the book’s audience.

    3. I anticipated legal trouble. Something that affected or was well known enough on her planet that she wanted to get away from the rock completely.

    4. Toremi are an enigma wrapped in a mystery tortilla, and probably dangerously crunchy. They are the “unknown” at this point. They scare me.

    1. These socks! Match! My hat!

      “Toremi are an enigma wrapped in a mystery tortilla, and probably dangerously crunchy.” — This made me laugh out loud. Very well put! 😀

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