The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: July 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the star chart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

I just clapped my hands together and shouted ‘SO’ to an empty room because I have a lot to say on this beauty of a book.

My expectations were fairly low; I rarely wander to adult sci-fi with space and spaceships and aliens because either I find the plots fairly similar and boring and copy cat versions of what they imagined space travel to be like in the 60s. But in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just a story but a commentary told through an highly imaginative and distinctly different storytelling that was just…WOWIE.

cropped-2017-03-13-05-03-25-11.jpgSo The Long Way is told over a good few years or ‘standards’ which I believe is longer than 12 months, where a crew have a job waiting for them on the other side of the galaxy. This is the over-arching plot that kickstarts everything, but the real stories are tucked inside the very characters on the Wayfarer where each person is given depth and development but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never read a character study that’s also paired with a whole new setting; writers like to explore deep characters and the flaws of what it means to be human in a setting we understand to better ground the characters in a more familiar place that won’t divert from the things the author is trying to do. But here, Becky Chambers manages to successfully juggle the two at the same time, WHILE not all the characters are even human.

Yeah. Incredible.

So we have these incredible characters, many of whom aren’t human, but are still telling this greater story of humanity and the greater good. How, we as sentients, need to look out for one another and respect customs, cultures and other languages. In the story’s universe, it’s a known fact that humans are a self-destructive and competitive species and that it had to change when allying with other species that were far more compassionate and advanced. It was amazing to read about these other fictional species who were just so different from other imaginings of aliens where, I often found, the aliens were still just humans but green, or blue or even were exactly like humans in every way. These species were nothing like humans; they had different languages, customs, body parts. Some had scales and feathers, some communicated through coloured lights in their cheeks, some didn’t wear clothes, some changed biological sex through age. There were differences in family dynamics and they way children were reared (as you can tell, the Aandrisk species was my favourite to learn about). It was just so interesting to read about and watching this crew grow into a family made my heart grow warm and fuzzy.

The Long Way definitely felt like a series of episodes, rather than one large quest, and so if any networks are looking for a sci-fi book to adapt into a show which is kind of like Firefly but SO much more imaginative, then this is your book. Get on it.

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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

I don’t think I’ll be able to stress enough how important and different this book is.

Set in a near future New York in the Bronx, a boy realizes he’s gay in a world where that isn’t acceptable. In this place, there is no hope for him, and the only way to solve it is for him to bury it with the technology to wipe his memories.

This is a sci-fi way of basically saying how dangerous conversion therapy is, and how it does not work.
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My heart bled for Aaron, who just wants to be happy. But where is happiness when you can barely afford to eat, have friends who you know can turn on you, in a neighborhood where shootings and stabbings are a weekly occurrence?

First of all, it was so refreshing to see a working-class character of colour. While POC are often portrayed as such, the characters were realistic, deep, and sympathetic (ok not all of them were). It wasn’t stereotypical, it was representation. The working-class aspect alone was diverse, because even within the community you still have some who are poorer than others, some who deal with it differently. Happiness is what you make of it, and in dark times, it’s hard to find. This was a story of true desperation, of a quick fix that just doesn’t work.

I’m sure it happens in the U.K too, but let’s focus on conversion therapy in the U.S. It’s really stupid, for one, layered with insecurities, desperation, isolation, and sometimes (but not all the time) religion. It’s deep rooted prejudice that makes a father send his son to a camp that makes him believe that what he feels is wrong. It’s a warped sense of what love is, because that’s all it is, it’s love. It’s not perversion or whatever the people in the documentaries call it (I told you in my last review I like watching docs about things I can’t understand, didn’t I?). The only way to deal with this is through education and compassion.

And hey, even if you still don’t ‘believe’ in homosexuality, whatever that means, your child should not be at the mercy of that opinion. Just…don’t send them to conversion camps. Don’t make them have therapy with an overpriced psychiatrist who’s literally spoon feeding you pseudo-science.

I loved this book. It’s sad, but it’s real. If you’re looking for a happy ending, it’s probably not here, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it!

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