SciFi Month Readalong of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Week 1). Pink men, Hyperactive Mech Techs, Grandpa-esque Caterpillar-aliens, AI romances, Patchwork Ships…oh, the shenanigans onboard the Wayfarer!

Banner by Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings
Banner by Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

I am so so SO enjoying Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet right now. The whole story is just tickling my fancies so much and I’m just loving everything about this space opera so far. I want to touch and fiddle and poke all the consoles on the ship and hug and shake hands and pinch the cheeks and tousle the hair of all the crewmates. I would be VERY annoying on board, that’s for sure.

Thanks to Lisa from Over the effin’ Rainbow for hosting week 1 of the book discussions and coming up with these awesome questions 🙂 Also SPOILERS are kind of everywhere here so beware!

1. 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?

I had SO much fun following Rosemary around the Wayfarer as she gets introduced to the members of the crew. All of them are lovingly drawn and so distinct—they HAVE to be freakin’ real sapients! I was charmed to pieces by everyone. And the ship, I love how it’s a hodge-podge-grandma’s-patchwork-quilt kind of ship. Makes me feel all cozy while I’m inside.

Anyway, I just love the entire cast, even the ones I don’t know much about, yet. My impressions:

Rosemary

Oddly enough, even though she’s one of our main windows into the story, I still don’t have a handle on her personality as of yet except that she has a mysterious past that she’s running away from (or maybe it’s just that she’s currently being outshone by her odder crewmates). It’s perfect that she comes from as-close-as-what-I-know-of-Earth-like-society (except…on Mars) because she’s perfectly positioned to give me entry into this shiny, crazy, complex, new life in space.  I like her well enough since she’s up to trying new things and as a reader, the more new things she tries, the more awesome stuff I can enjoy vicariously. So, go Rosemary! Eat more Red Coast Bugs!

Ashby

I am definitely getting Mal vibes from him. He’s described as a chronic drifter who isn’t happy settling any one place. A guy who likes the thrill of a blind punch through space and is like a big brother wrangling his eclectic ‘siblings’ into gear. There’s definitely a story behind how he got started in the tunneling business and I’m eager to glean the tidbits of his past as I read on. Gah! This whole thing is making me want to re-watch Firefly like…RIGHT NOW. Ashby and Sissix are so reminding me of Mal and Zoe.

Corbin

Oh my. He’s just…just too good to be true—a fussy, pompous, neurotic, misanthropic algaeist with pink skin “bred for tedious labwork and a sunless sky”. Described by Ashby as “a talented algaeist and a complete asshole” and “an extremely valuable headache”. I just…want to mess with him so badly (it kind of thrilled me to bits when I learned that Sissix messed with his dentbots—sensitive gums my butt!). I am looking forward to seeing more pranks gravitating towards him in the course of the trip. He’s just so precious!

Lovey

An AI named after Ada Lovelace—an ode to her poetical science!  Lovey is most beautifully described by Jenks as “uniquely molded by the Wayfarer. Her personality…shaped by every experience she and the crew had together, every place they’d been to, every conversation they’d shared…she’d become much more than the ship’s AI. She’d become someone wonderful.” Just. So. Aw. She’s a sweetie of an AI and I think the Wayfarer is in good “hands”.

Kizzy

Seriously, this girl is a big clatter boom wow of noise and color and flurry and eccentricity—a mech tech genius who has to remind herself to EAT by writing it on her sleeve. She’s just as neurotic as Corbin but has got enough lovableness in her personality to fix Corbin’s lack of. I love her buddy relationship with Jenks, they have a crazy-meets-crazy-and-its-fine sort of relationship. I can’t help but be reminded of Gaeton from Disney’s Atlantis…like Kissy might be the more bubbly, personable version of her crazy uncle Gaeton or something. My favorite scene with this girl so far is when she was so just loving “Socks Match My Hat” and making up her own lyrics (“Punch ’em in the face! Monkeys like it, too! I ate a har-monica!”). Kissy’s are antics I DO NOT want to miss out on.

Jenks

He’s an odd fellow who is proud of his unusual body and only does genetweaks out of love and not out of low self-esteem. I love him simply because he’d hacked into Corbin’s scrib and inserted 162 naked photographs of himself. He’s FEEDING my inner troll! Muahaha. Also, I think he’s the sole reason Kissy doesn’t go insane aboard the Wayfarer—she needs a buddy to always be up for her Battle Wizards or gorging on sugarsnaps or watching the next installment of Prison Planet or placing bets on Waterball semi-finals. FURTHERMORE, despite being as impish as his size might suggest, he’s also got a big heart. I love that scene when he and Lovey discuss their unconventional relationship. Ah. It’s so…surprisingly healthy considering the “barriers” in their way.

Sissix

Ha! It’s giving me oodles of entertainment to see Sissix and Corbin butt heads. Sissix is no doubt the mother-like figure of the crew. A cold-blooded reptilian Aandrisk woman with the warmest heart on board (excuse my mammalian bias). The way she is described kind of reminds me of the trolls from Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy (agile dinosaur people with colorful plumage). She’ll make sure you’ve found your cabin and got your belly filled up with good stuff, and she’ll know if you’re worrying about something and need some moral support. My favorite scene with this lady is when Ashby lands a 36M tunneling job for the crew and he’s just so excited about it, he has to convo with her on the scrib except she hates typing and it’s midnight standard time and her hands can’t move because COLD-BLOODED, ha, and she needs her heat blanket. That little one hour convo was such a delight to read, really captures the essence of the Sissix-Ashby dynamic.

Ashby (00:10): sissix, are you there

(0:11): pick up your scrib

(00:14): hello?
 
Sissix (00:15): text

(00:15): realy

(00:16): how fucking quaint
 
Ashby (00:16): did i wake you up?
 
Sissix (00:17): yes

(00:17): im goin to complain my boss bout this n th mornin
 
Ashby (00:17): sorry, it’s important

(00:17): i just forwarded you a letter
 
Sissix (00:18): why cnt yo come to my room i hat typing
 
Ashby (00:18): because i don’t want anyone to hear what we’re saying
 
Sissix (00:18): ship ok?
 
Ashby (00:18): yes, just read the damn letter
 
Sissix (00:19): give me minut

(00:19): need to heat bed i can barly mov
 
Ashby (00:19): get a heat blanket and let’s go
 
Sissix (00:24): ok better

(00:24): can actually use my hands now, hooray
 
Ashby (00:24): READ IT
 
Sissix (00:24): ok ok

(00:27): HOLY SHIT
 
Ashby (00:27): shh, i could hear you yell through the wall

Dr. Chef

Aw. Just so aw. He’s a Grum! (I love that word) And his name is just so practical—he’s the med and the chef of the Wayfarer, ha! I really love him and I have a feeling his cheeks are probably pinch-able (though that would be a douch-ey thing to do, I acknowledge this). Sissix describes him as “pudding with legs”. He just brings to mind a big lovable, squishy, caterpillar (reminds me of Heimlich from Disney’s A Bug’s Life) that hums while he cooks and has a penchant for hydroponics. I love that he has pudgy handfeet. I love that his actual crazy, six-windpipes-producing-multi-voiced name includes the meaning “A Grove of Trees Where Friends Meet To Watch The Moons Align During A Sunset in Mid-Atumn…” and much more. I love that he gets into a cheek-puffing excitement over Rosemary’s namesake. If Sissix is the mother figure of the crew, Dr. Chef if like a grandpa. I just can’t get enough of his cheek-puffing laughter!

Ohan

Part of the Sianat race, they are a single physical entity but refer to themselves in plural, due to a neurovirus called the Whisperer that they are purposefully infected with in their childhood that uses their brain as a host. The secret of the Whisperer virus makes the Sianat “a reclusive race who [can] conceptualize multidimensional space as easily as a Human [can] do algebra” and they are the reason why the Wayfarer can do blind punches through space to create tunnels between point A and B without needing to have a set up on the other side pre-prepared. I don’t know much about their personality but they are described as furry blue primate-like creatures that behaved in a way Rosemary thought reminded her of “a stoned college student, showing up late to class in nothing but a bathrobe”. Heh. I can’t wait to learn more about them!

2. 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?

I seriously don’t know like…anything…about bending space and time to get from point A to point B without using FTL. The above classic explanation of a wormhole is about all I know! I’m not sure how the bore thingy works but the other bits—inserting the buoys that generate a “field made up of all the same strings and particles and stuff that normal space is made of” sounds legit enough. And the containment cages that “keep space from ripping open any farther than we want it to” make sense though, again, not sure whether Kizzy was dumbing it down too much but I don’t know how them cages work either (the science behind it would probably implode my brain). Doing a blind punch sounds super thrilling, though, like a race against space collapsing behind you while you try to reach the “other side”. And this Kaj’met Expanse sounds like a nasty place that I’m still secretly hoping the Wayfarer will have to visit somehow because it sounds so cool: “asteroids drifting into invisible holes, planets snapped in half, a dying star leaking into a debris-crusted tear”.

3. 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?

Hmm…yes, indeed. There are clues dropped here and there that Rosemary is from a privileged, maybe even “old-world” family that lives on Florence, one of the wealthiest cities on Mars. Her father is an off-world importer that is apparently rich enough to sponsor a big deal event back on Mars and her mom is involved in the hoity-toity art gallery business. Oh, and she’s also got a sister in a high place that she isn’t very close to (who works in the Galactic Commons Resource allocation bureau). Rosemary herself sounds really learned, being fluent in Hanto and trained in interspecies relations and having gone to the prestigious Alexandria University of which our talented Corbin is also a graduate. But the identity she officially presents in the paperwork is apparently all made up—she bribed a government official to help her out. She’s also burned some bridges back home (making “mistakes she’d had no part in”) and can’t go back and she’s taken up the job on the Wayfarer to get as far away from all that as possible and earn enough credits to keep herself fed, clothed, and housed.

So….my prediction is very vague but I think she’s got herself involved in something political (considering how powerful her family sounds) and got in over her head and offended some high falutin’ politician on Mars and now has to scamper out of there lickety-split and disappear. On further thought, the problem must be related to her family somehow, because I don’t think she told her family she was running away (the whole getting a new identity and leaving with nary a credit to her name makes it sound like she was doing it all by herself) which means she anticipates their massive disapproval over what she’s done or she thinks they won’t be able to help her. Maybe she’s found something out about her family (maybe her father’s doing something shady) and in order to make things right, she had to do something to reveal the whole thing—that might tie into the whole “mistakes she’d had no part in” since what her father did would affect how their family—how she—is regarded after the whole mess is revealed?

4. 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?

Oh, all that unpredictable clan/tribal warfare they’re involved in sounds messy and troublesome and dangerous! They’re like the asteroid belt of the galaxy, making it really inconvenient for people to get into the galactic core. What could they be hiding inside there? In the middle of the Milky Way there’s a ring of super old stars (or maybe even new ones) and smack dab in the center is a supermassive black hole. Though the Toremi are nomadic, could they be protecting some old planet ringing a black hole, maybe for religious reasons (since they don’t seem to want to live there)? If so, I predict it’s going to be an ANGRY planet, as the title of the book suggests. Though, what could an angry planet be? A planet with lots of volcanic activity? An unstable core? I don’t know what I’m talking about…haha. Anyway, I think the Toremi are definitely hiding something and the Wayfarer is going to inadvertently learn of it and become embroiled in it all. Oh, goody!

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10 comments

  1. I’m really enjoying this book too, and it was so hard to stop at the designated chapter and resist going forward (but now we can!) I love your character write ups and yay I’m not the only one who pictured Heimlich when I read about Dr. Chef! Though in my mind he was a little more rough around the edges than our favorite huggable caterpillar 🙂 Interesting enough, I’m getting good clear vibes from everyone in the crew except maybe for Ashby and Rosemary, the two major characters. I think that will change as well continue 🙂

  2. Mogsy – Yeah, I think Ashby and Rosemary are totally overshadowed by the quirkier characters! Haha a “rough around the edges” Heimlich, YES, that’s totally how Dr. Chef looks like (but I still want to hug him :P) Whoohoo! Onwards on the adventure 🙂

  3. Loving this so far and btw what a great post! I love the characterisation.
    Ashby – he kind of feels like the captain for Alien – he’s a bit none descript at the moment, almost expendable, not in that I dislike him – just that he’s not really as developed as some of the others yet – but I guess that’s deliberate and we still have plenty of time to get to know him.
    Rosemary is also a puzzle – I like your points about her – perhaps coming from a very prestigious family she was being used as a front for something and it’s all come out into the open – maybe that’s why she says it wasn’t her fault.
    I can’t help thinking one of either two things with the new job – the whole Toremi civil war description is a huge red herring – so that we all look at what’s going on over at ‘x’ and then ‘bam’ another element comes into the story when we least expect it. I’m thinking that the crew are going to get caught up with lots of adventures along the way (hence the title being ‘the long way’ etc, etc). Or maybe the crew are being used for something tricky being set up as the fall guys – then again, I’m probably just over thinking it and as you can see I can’t settle on one thing – i figure if I give a multitude of explanations one of them just might be right!
    Lynn 😀

  4. Lynn – Whatever Rosemary is running away from, I think it has to do with her family. She doesn’t seem to be overly close with any of them or missing them all that much, so she must still be upset re whatever it is she’s embroiled in. And, Oooo yes on the “being set up as the fall guys”! They might blind punch directly into all that crazyness! There probably is a huge red herring re the civil war. I’m just wondering what the heck is in the galactic core that the Toremi find so precious, they’re warring with each other and making it hard for others to get in there. Can’t wait to see if any of us are right 😛

  5. Jan – I know! This is my first read along is a long while and I forgot how fun it is 🙂 Especially when it comes to placing bets on predictions as to what the Wayfarer might be getting up to next!

  6. Argggggh, my library didn’t get this book ordered in time for me to participate in this readalong, and I am cross about it. The book looks amazing, and the more I hear about it, the more I want to read it.

  7. Haha, your gif choices work so so well! I am now going to picture a caterpillar whenever Dr. Chef is around, but gray instead of green ;-). And yes, definite Mal vibe, though maybe a little less angry than Mal so that’s good?

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