The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. (SF Novel, 2014).
This first novel is a good, adventuresome space opera. A bright young woman who now calls herself Rosemary Harper has fled her native Mars (escaping a scandal not of her making). She’s taken a job aboard the Wayfarer, a spaceship that travels the galaxy, facilitating contact between worlds by tunneling artificial wormholes.
The Wayfarer‘s captain is a peace-loving descendant of people who fled into deep space when Earth became almost totally uninhabitable. Rosemary’s other new crewmates include an affectionate reptilian pilot, a couple delightfully offbeat human engineers, a mysterious alien navigator, one of the last survivors of yet another alien species who serves as both the ship’s doctor and cook, a surly human who tends the algae that supplies the ship with fuel and the ship’s AI, whose personality make her far than a mere computer system.
The first few chapters involve Rosemary settling into this unfamiliar new environment, getting to know (and mostly like) her new compatriots and sharing assorted preliminary adventures with them. But soon the Galactic Commons, the multi-species government they work for, offers them a richer-than-usual contract. The GC is in talks to ally itself with a faction of a notoriously unpredictable species that lives in a state of constant civil conflict at the distant core of the galaxy. These quarrelsome people control valuable resources, but their violent nature makes the venture extremely dangerous.
The majority of the book follows the extended voyage to the planet mentioned in the title, where the Wayfarer is to open the wormhole that will connect this new addition to the galactic family–if opposing groups don’t kill everyone aboard.
Chambers shows us several interesting and varied cultures (alien and human alike) while deploying much quirky humor and some genuine heart. There are many interesting characters to encounter. And there’s drama, even some actual tragedy (I won’t spoil things with too much detail). There’s even more than a bit of tasteful inter-species romance/sex that develops.
If your tastes run to rollicking but also somewhat thoughtful SF adventure, join Rosemary and the rest of the Wayfarer‘s crew out in the Open (as they refer to deep-space).