I must tell you about two of my favourite people on Earth. One of them is a two hour train ride away, he is dark and skinny and we tend to be assumed as siblings. The other is 5217 miles (ish, who’s counting?) away, he looks like an elf princeling, and we have spent 7 days in the last two years in the same timezone. But we are remarkable friends and distance changes very little between us. However, this long distance thing it is as much a test of our collective endurance and patience as it is our shared ability to communicate regularly.
I am a mostly a digital spectre to two people I consider part of my nervous system. I miss all the laugher and all of the tears and all of the times that are fixed with hugs and gin and take out. I miss afternoons listening to vinyl. Or baking. Or simply taking in the sky and talking the world right. I am continually reminded that sometimes physical space is a privilege. That when your lives are all very different and diverge suddenly, you have a choice, you can to learn to be a digital core group that exist primarily online or you can dissolve and loose one another to the ether. I am reminded that without tech this friendship would not be possible. That what is ‘us’ would have likely ceased a long time ago, or that we would be solely responsible for keeping royal mail in business (which is entirely possible).
There are rare times that I find novels that feel like who we are together, novels that somehow close the void of distance brings them both close into the intimate space of my mind. Novels that fill the homesick pit to the brim with everything we are to one another and the long way to a small angry planet is without a doubt one of those novels.
To tell you the truth after quite a heavy month of devouring very large and dense books I was really looking for a light read. Maybe some young adult fiction to just give myself a rest, and small angry planet is not that book. But it’s not overly dense either. It is laid out almost as a collection of short stories that all push the main narrative forward to the novels destination – following the Wayfarer on it’s steady flight through the universe to a job punching a black hole through space beside a very small, angry planet.
What kept me going with this novel is that it reminds me so much of the tv series Firefly, and that it is incredibly well thought out. The species in this novel are incredible, it is good natured, relatable and I fell in love with the crew on the Wayfarer. There is a lot to spark your imagination, from fringe planets to black holes, to how space ships work, to this history of the off-worlders to species!
So there is a species who’s emotions show on their faces as blots of colours. There is a species that have lizard like features, but heads of multicoloured feathers and they shed all their skin at once. There is a species with six hand-feet who are all born female until they reach old age and become male. There is a species that look a lot like lobsters. But this isn’t a novel without its share of strife, there are interspecies frictions, political agendas, a civil war happening to a species with very short tempers and strange social skills.
“Do not judge other species by your own social norms.” p.24
There are characters who have been swallowed by their love of tech and have swapped body parts (functioning or accidentally lost) for tech upgrades. There are characters who are bitterly cynical, there are characters who are strange in their religion and customs, and there are hyper active tech’s who are usually up to mischief. But some of the most profound moments of this novel are told through characters who aren’t human. I honestly adored this novel. It burst open everything I truly love about sci-fi, it was engaging, it was honest, it made me unbelievably curious about the world it was set in and I can really see why this initially self-published novel was picked up by a publishing house because it is simply wonderful.
And of course, it also reminded me very much of my two favourite boys because I know both of them would really enjoy this novel and it is so playful with a genre that we all have a soft spot for. But more than that, it was the relationship between the crew and how they view one another, and place what matters before what is socially deemed as valuable. Whether it be the validation of falling in love with an A.I, or choosing who you consider family.
“Brothers you can’t get rid of. They get who you are, and what you like, and they don’t care who you sleep with or what mistakes you make, because brothers aren’t mixed up in that part of your life. They see you at your worst, and they don’t care. […] Nothing’s too much to ask when it comes to brothers.” p. 395.