So I started The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and within just a few pages I realised that this would be the rare instance of some sci-fi holding my attention for more than a few chapters. There were some really well-formed characters just leaping off the page and some really strong writing skills. Twenty pages in and I was starting to really get into it.
And that’s when things started to get a bit weird.
Because I was convinced I was reading Firefly fanfiction.
Every character in TLWTASAP seemed to have a Firefly equivalent. Rosemary was Shepherd Book, Sissix was Zoe, Ohan was River, Ashby was Mal, Kizzy was Kaylee, Pei was Inara, Corbin was ... Well, actually, Corbin was Sheldon Cooper, which didn’t really fit with the Firefly parallel, but the rest of it seemed almost uncanny.
And actually, it was almost enough to make me DNF. After all, it’s not like there’s a gap in the market for Firefly fanfic. The internet has buckets of it.
But I carried on. I mean, it’s not like Firefly was exactly original in the first place. Joss Whedon based it on the Traveller RPG that he played in college, and if you’ve a mind to (and are seriously bored) you can call up the specifications for the Traveller Type R Merchant vessel. Go on, Google it now. Recognise it? Yup, it’s Serenity.
I digress into Sad Nerd Knowledge.
The point I’m trying to make is that yes, this book might have a lot of similarities with Firefly, but aren’t there supposed to only be like seven stories in the whole world and everything is just a variation on a theme? So I carried on reading and I’m so glad I did. What unfolded was a really fun plot involving spaceships burrowing wormholes throughout space. What’s not to like? It’s fairly light on tension, apart from a pretty tense scene at the end, and really a lot of it is character development, exposition, backgrounds. How these various people interact with each other when they’re all cooped up together on a really small spaceship for over a year.
And yes, the characters made me give my Kindle the side-eye but the worldbuilding more than made up for the lack of originality in that regard. The author has obviously spent a lot of time thinking about how she wants her galaxy to look and it was great! I liked the alien races and how diverse they were, their cultural backgrounds and so on. There was practically no physics (good!) but instead there was plenty of description. In fact, at times there was so much description that it felt more like a fantasy novel than sci-fi.
All in all, this was a really enjoyable read. I know a lot of sci-fi fans who are totally into their plot and physics and I wouldn’t really recommend this book for them, but for literally everyone else out there I’d say yay! Read it!