Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

So…I accidentally skipped a week of posting for, I believe, the first time ever. Sorry about that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Things got, and remain, a little out of control.

In other news, I have just finished a most wonderful book! The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

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What a book! The moment I finished it I hopped on Goodreads, gave it 5 stars, and marked it as a favorite. I am psyched to read the next one, A Closed and Common Orbit. 

This was the first book that I’ve ever read on the Kindle app. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. It was handy to have the book constantly with me, but the screen just doesn’t fit enough words to make me feel like I’m making progress, which is why it took me an oddly long time to finish the book.

The Long Way follows the small crew of a ship that punches wormholes through space. It rotates POV quite often, and for once it didn’t bother me unduly. There wasn’t much about this book that I didn’t love, and I shall use a handy tool known as listing to highlight my favorite aspects.

  1. The worldbuilding. Holy lord, the worldbuilding. The alien species. Their history. The Galactic Commons. What a work of art. All alien species were suitably alien, and suitably fantastic. Down to fascinating biological and inter-species history, Chambers built an immersive, fantastic, bizarre universe.
  2. The romance. Interspecies romance done right is fascinating, and this book does it right. What was fascinating to me was how much Chambers was able to convey about the cultures of various species, exploring romantic compatibility and hangups with other species, in a relatively short amount of time.
  3. Non-human centric. Too often sci-fi smacks of human exceptionalism. Not so in this book–in fact, humans are kind of the runts of the Galactic Commons. Lots of musing on the nature of humanity from various points of view, human and nonhuman. Lovely.
  4. Ethics. Lots of discussions of the ethics of various species. Maybe this should fall under worldbuilding, but it stood out to me so strongly it deserves its own number.
  5. Lastly: THE CHARACTERS! By the end of the book there was not a character that I did not feel fondly towards, even the ones I hated at first.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet feels different from other sci-fi. The tone is lighthearted: it’s a book that’s serious, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. I can’t pinpoint the exact type of book or tone I feel like it is, but I can only hope it’s the start of something great.

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Conference Weekend

I just got back from attending my first conference ever, The Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR), wherein I also presented my first paper ever! The paper is about how Gaia Theory is altered through three works of science fiction: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, “Vaster than Empires and More Slow” by Ursula K. LeGuin, and the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane. It was incredibly fun to write and even more fun to share with a room full of academics.

Meanwhile, I stayed in my second fanciest hotel room ever and generally luxuriated. I had good intentions to be productive in my down time, but instead found myself taking advantage of the huge bathtub, the not-too-atrociously-expensive room service, and the free soaps.

Some things I learned from this conference:

  • Fun topics at conferences get people excited
  • I’m better at public speaking than I thought I was
  • I’m way better at networking than I thought I was
  • Sometimes it’s ok to be a little hedonistic in your fancy hotel room

In sum, I spent this weekend making really cool friends, learning really cool things, and ignoring the little voice in my head that worries about stuff like impending thesis deadlines. So, to everyone out there who can’t fathom taking a break right now: do it anyway. Just for a day. It’ll be time well spent.

Two Recommendations

My extended family is in town today, so I don’t have time to write a very long post–I’ll make up for it next week. My friends are doing some amazing literary things right now, so I thought I’d spread the word. Below are a blog and book recommendation.

  1. The Edwin Project: Zoe Kaplan is reviewing old science fiction stories published in magazines owned by her grandfather, circa 1950s. She is reading through the volumes and deciding which have stood the test of time, and which truly have not. Follow for 50s slang, corporeal ghosts, and mysteries of the universe.
  2. Waters of Salt and Sin: An epic new release by Alisha Klapheke, starring a sea-faring salt witch in a quest to rescue her. The author is awesome, and so is the story. High-stakes sailing, creepy sea wraiths and a unique magic system, and some killer worldbuilding lie within.

I’m off to go play Apples To Apples with my grandparents.

peace edit.jpgpeace out

 

The Final Frontier

 

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I don’t write about space very much (read: at all). But if I did, I would liberally use The Space Educator’s Handbook.

If you can get past the frankly painful web design, this is a darn useful site, provided by NASA no less, for anyone teaching space stuff…or, in our case, writing space stuff.

Can’t get past the yellow-on-space-print background? Here are some specific useful links:

Aerospace dictionary, so you can learn everything from ablations to zeniths.

Sci-fi/Space technology, complete with handy scientific laws, necessary tech, and reference manuals.

Astronomy information, about planets, cool questions about water and life elsewhere in the universe, and theoretical situations like playing sports on the moon.

There’s a ton of info on here, if you can brave the asterisk page breaks and pages of bolded text. Use it wisely.