the long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers

I thought it was due to the fact that I was writing a screenplay for the BBC Writer’s Room at the time, but all the way through reading the long way to a small angry planet (no capital letters) I couldn’t help but think what a great TV series it would make.

Then, a colleague who also read it, said it reminded him of Firefly that I realised it wasn’t just me.

long way… tells the story of a crew of a spaceship who are travelling to the centre of the galaxy in order to ‘punch’ their way back and create a shortcut to open up trade with a dangerous and violent race who are occupying a planet there.

As a child, I was brought up on Star Trek: Voyager, and then stumbled upon Star Trek: The Next Generation myself shortly after. As such, my view of the future of humanity has always been quite a sanitised, civilised, perhaps unrealistic one.

In a lot of other science fiction stories (be they Red Dwarf, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or even Deep Space 9) the future is a lot more uncertain. Alien races all conflicting with each other, humanity conflicting with itself and the starships conflicting with space itself.

In short, I’ve always struggled with the other kind of sci-fi because it always feels a bit grubby and hopeless compared to the utopian Federation presented in Voyager.

But I didn’t struggle with this book. It was a wonderful read, with a fascinating set of well-drawn and varied characters – by no means an easy thing when trying to introduce characters of several different alien races at one time.

The only issue I had with it, was the ending, after a solid two part ‘episode’ towards the end of the book, several strands feel like they’ve just been left dangling, and after the action up to that point, the ending feels lifeless and flat.

Perhaps another book is coming – and if it does, it’s one that I will definitely read – but as it is, it feels like the show was cancelled mid-season.