Series Review: Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

Thursday, October 20, 2016
Technically, these two books are more companions than series, but eh, it's my blog and I do what I want.

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Genre: science fiction
Series: Wayfarers #1
Pages: 404
Published: August 2015
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4.5/5

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 starchart. 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.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

Title: A Closed and Common Orbit
Author: Becky Chambers
Genre: science fiction
Series: Wayfarers #2
Pages: 512
Published: October 20 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4.5/5
Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who's determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for - and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers' beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.


Take note: Becky Chambers has published two excellent, diverse, and just plain fun science fiction novels in the last few years. First with the spaceship quest across galaxies among a ragtag band of characters and species in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and then planetside, wrestling with existential crises with AI and engineered humans during A Closed and Common Orbit, Chambers has shown an impressive breadth of imagination and creativity in her pair of companion novels. Both books have been entertaining and thoughtful; original in scope and in plot but not without humor and a ship or two.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet does a great job of setting up the world/s the characters occupy and travel among. The many rules and imagined cultures of this imagined future are varied and unpredictable but the author does a great job of disseminating the info without halting the pacing. Chambers' version of future includes multiple non-human aliens who interact (and are often confused/horrified by) humankind in unexpected but interesting ways. A Closed and Common Orbit is a bit less diverse when it comes to characters, aliens, and foreign cultures, but it also uses a nonhuman main character in an effective way to analyze humankind. 

 Societal expectations, gender, identity, and what it means to be human and/or alive are all key themes touched on within Chambers' clever science fiction. Using first Rosemary in TLWtaSAP and then Lovelace and Pepper as main characters is a smart move because of the different backgrounds and exposures each of the three women bring to their unique perspectives. Rosemary's struggle with politics, personal history and gender bias is contrasted with Lovelace's existential dilemma and also with Pepper's harrowing history and continuing quest. Their individual stories are wildly disparate, but each are deftly rendered and thoughtfully explore many issues relevant in modern society (slave labor, cloning, child labor, prejudice and discrimination, environmental waste...etc).

More than anything else, even with the occasionally heavy subject, these two books are original and entertaining to read. Each could be read independent of the other or without knowledge of other's contents, but I wouldn't recommend that. They both offer a ton of humor and are each filled with fantastically developed characters -- of all species and kinds. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet may be more action-oriented than the introspective nature of A Closed and Common Orbit but both are great, fun reads; fantastic new additions to the scifi genre.

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