I tend not to write reviews about stories that didn’t work for me. But I wanted to write a review about this story, because even though I ended up not liking it that much overall, there was a lot about it I loved.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a fun sci-fi adventure through an interesting and original universe. It follows the adventures of a tunneling ship that creates the new wormholes everyone in the universe uses to travel. Ostensibly, the idea of the story is that the scrappy crew must make their way close to the center of the galaxy, where they’ll make the first wormhole for a species that lives close to the core.
While the plot technically exists, I think it’s more accurate to describe the book as a tour of an original universe. Chapters are vignettes that almost stand alone. New species are introduced, new challenges must be overcome.
For the most part, I enjoyed the set-up. The species are interesting to learn about, and I particularly loved that violence plays a much smaller role in this universe. It exists, and is part of life, but I can’t help but compare this universe to the Federation in Star Trek. Most of the space-faring species are peaceful, as are the crew of the tunneler. This isn’t a military sci-fi epic where humanity is trying to survive or claim its place among the stars. This is a group of different species, doing their best to figure out how to share the galaxy.
I really liked the way that felt, and I’d love to read more of it. That, really, is why I wanted to write this review.
Still, the book fell short for me, in what I’m sure could be described as a “it’s-not-you, it’s-me” sort of way. While I enjoyed the vignettes and the little moments of growth for the characters, the book lacks a strong central conflict, and really, even a strong central character. It’s an ensemble story, and while all the characters enjoy complete, well-written arcs, the glue that holds it all together wasn’t quite strong enough for me. I was turning the pages because I found the universe interesting, not because the story pulled me forward.