“The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet” Book Review [Jalapeño Fiction Award] Becky Chambers

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Jalapeno Score: 37/50


Overall Impression: 

“The Long Way to F*n Nowhere…” Don’t get me wrong, I think Becky Chambers is a talented writer, I really do. I think she has ideas and active imagination. But there is something fundamentally lacking in the book, and it is plot. Imagine you started building the house from the roof, then added balconies, and installed awesome windows, and a swimming pool. What’s wrong with that picture? There is no foundation! To be fare, in this particular book, there was an overarching plot, but the stakes were not as high, the motives were vague. I kept wondering why I was spending over 400 pages with the story that never picked up!

To be fare and balanced, the book has really wonderful ideas and messages. It is my assumption that the fans of the ‘Farscape’ will like its diversity and richness of the world.  I prefer a tightly knit story. As a first book, “The Long Way…” is still one hell of an accomplishment, and I will be looking forward to other books by this author because clearly the talent is there.


Plot:                                   

The story follows a crew of a spaceship Wayfarer, that builds tunnels in space, like cosmic highways of sorts. Everyone on the ship is very sweet and harmless, and even the most divergent characters are in essence just a bit shy or insecure. Everyone is pretty much a cupcake. The old ship receives a lucky break being contracted for a major government project – to drill a tunnel to the faraway planet that recently joined the union. In order to do that, the Wayfarer needs to travel for months away from the familiar space to the point of destination, and from there drill a tunnel back. The entire story develops within the storyline of Wayfarer getting to the point of destination, and every chapter has non-essential, albeit interesting, plot divergences telling the story of every crew member. None of those tangents in any way connected to the central plotline, but some of them are quite interesting in their own right. My perception was that I much rather would follow any of those plot lines, than this particular trip to nowhere. I don’t know if I am being too harsh, hopefully I provide a balanced opinion. For that reason, I have five scales below, so you can see more clearly the strengths and weaknesses of the book.


Science-meter: 7

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The author spent a good deal of effort on developing the fictional science of tunneling through subspace.  The space travel science gets the most recognition in the book.  You get the most flavor for it in the Chapter “Blind Punch”. Supposedly the space could not be drilled just about anywhere. I liked that idea, it created potential dangers and richness for the Wayfarer’s job. A punch is the term for making a tunnel. Here’s how one of the characters, Kizzy, explains the tunneling process ‘in simple terms’:

“The area above my bowl of porridge’ she gestured importantly –‘is the fabric of space. The porridge itself is a sublayer – basically space in between space. And this groob’ – she picked up a small black fruit from her plate – ‘is the Wayfarer.’…’We’ve got two ends of space to connect, right? Here and here.’ She pressed  her finger down into the porridge, making indentations on opposite ends of the bowl… ‘Once we are in  position, I turn on the interspatial bore… Runs on ambi cells… Then we punch.’ She slammed the berry down into the porridge. ‘And then it gets weird…’Well, we’re just squishy little three-dimensional creatures. Our brains can’t process what goes on in the sublayer. Technically, the sublayer is outside of what we consider normal time. Understanding what’s going on in there is like … it’slike telling someone – a Human, I mean, to see  in in infrared. We just can’t do it. So in the sublayer, you feel that something is wrong with the world, but you can’t put your finger on what it is’ ”

And so on. You get a fare share of details about the type of a punch and all kinds of issues with the tunneling.

Probably my favorite part about the book, related to the tunneling tech, is the alien species who live a symbiotic relationship with a virus and have a dual identity. You address this creature ‘they’. The one on the Wayfarer is named Ohan, and it is afflicted with a deadly condition, wane, which every virus-affected member eventually develops. Wane dramatically reduces the lifespan of these species, but it also gives them amazing analytical abilities. They understand the sublayer, they can calculate the complicated math necessary to punch through uneven and dangerous sublayer. That’s why I added this creature to the category of science, because it complements the tunneling science premise.

Finally, another cool tech idea is ambi, a type of expensive and effective energy source harvested from, the best I understood it, energy of vacuum. I enjoyed this part as well.

As you see, the story doesn’t really build on a lot of real science, just some sciency speculations, although when done well, I really like these kind of things. This book, in my opinion, accomplished it.


Plot-meter: 5 

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Some people may disagree with my assessment of the plot, although reading through numerous other reviews, I saw some people leaning towards this opinion as well. There are a lot of great subplots, but the central plot in this book was underdeveloped. Remember that saying, that if in the first chapter there is a gun on the wall, in the last one it must fire? It looks like the real story is left for the sequels. This particular book,in my opinion, served as a prequel to the real story. Also, this story was clearly meant to be plot-driven, action-driven, versus the introspective character-driven stories. I think in this respect it missed the mark.


Character-meter: 9 

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Becky Chambers created multiple interesting characters, aliens and humans, AIs and clones, you name it. They all had their stories. My problem was that they all came across saccharine. I have nothing against nice people, but in the fiction, characters must have villains. The absence of a real villain is probably one of the biggest problems of the story. There is a Toremi terrorist in the story, who shows up in the story near the end, but he was not connected to the story of Wayfarer. Not to give too much away, but whatever trouble happened in the end, was not addressed against Wayfarer  per se. Our heroes were just sadly an unfortunate victims of aggression that had nothing to do with them personally. If this was an experimental literary fiction, then I would not rate these flaws of the classic storytelling so harshly. But this is a typical ‘meat and potatoes’ space western. It must have heroes and villains, it must have dangers directly related to the characters and be really life-threatening. Well, check it for yourself. The end was somehow anti-climatic.

Also, I was a bit annoyed with the childishness of the characters, especially their names. Dr. Cheff, really? The ship’s doctor who also was a cook, and his name was Dr. Cheff? Kizzy? Rosemary? Jenks? Lovey? You get the point.


Originality-meter: 8

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I think it’s a great rendition on similar stories, but filled with own innate originality. Great imagination! Great potential for future works.


Writing-meter: 8

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I honestly suspect that Becky Chambers is a great writer in the making. Her writing flows nicely, it is funny at times. I think I’d like to see her write in different voices and styles too. That is why I rate her  writing highly.

Concluding words: uneven, with great potential. Looking forward to the sequel.


Thanks for reading this review. Please let me know what you think, I’m looking forward to read your comments. Do you have a favorite 2015 or 2016 sci fi novel? You can nominate it for the award.

To find out about the Jalapeño Fiction Award, go to this page.

Copyright Ellie Maloney (2016)

 

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“Million Deaths of Lt. Mazula” Soundtrack

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Earlier I wrote that I was going to edit and submit Season 1 of Lt. Mazula to a publisher. Well, tonight is the night! The draft was thoroughly edited and submitted. Can’t wait to start writing the Season 2! Below is the recommended soundtrack ‘album’ that I put together to illustrate the story. Enjoy!

  1. The Decembrists “Rox in The Box”
  2. The Decembrists “This Is Why We Fight”
  3. The Mountain Goats “Michael Meyers Resplendent”
  4. Peter Gabriel “Red Rain”
  5. Funkadelic “Maggot Brain”
  6. They Might Be Giants “Istanbul not Constantinople”
  7. Apocalyptica “Path”
  8. Lou Reed “Perfect Day”

The last song is called “Perfect Day”. Of course there is nothing perfect at the end of the season 1. In fact things are really, really bad. It’s almost as if Mazula is delirious and wishes all was so mundane and perfect. Instead, in every of 12 episodes things just got worse and worse, and oh my god, at the end, it all falls apart! Can’t tell you more than that for now! Just enjoy the music and create your own story in your brain.


P.s. You know that I don’t own the rights to the songs, right? You need to buy your own copies. Cheers!

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My First Day On Twitter

 

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You might argue that I need to get a life. I may actually agree with you. And more so, I need to finish a draft for the upcoming  deadline, and yet I am fiddling with my new Twitter account.

As a reward for invested time, this is how my Twitter account plumped up since last night. I am trying to get the Book Club up and running, and to engage readers in the #HugoChallenge on Facebook .  I even tweeted all the five Hugo-nominated authors! Why? Because I have Twitter now! That’s why! But mainly because I want to invite their fans to participate.

Some of my quirky observations about the Twitter so far:

  • It appears to be customary in the Twitter ecosystem to tweet about every minutiae in life. As a new kid on the block, I tried to fit in.

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  • All the fake bot accounts were getting on my nerves.

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  • Messages from authors assuring that they will mutilate themselves in various ways to convince me to read their books. Meh, I consider it an expensive marketing strategy, mostly in medical bills. Unfortunately when I subscribed  to the spam weeding program, all those messages disappeared. Too bad, they were hysterical. But before I realized how to get rid of those self-destructive spamming writers, I tweeted about it.

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  • Followers with names like ‘S*xy Babes’ and such. Meh I also had a response to that.

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  • Finally, Disappointment of the day:

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Here’s to more days to  come on Twitter. Check me out over there, so I get to see a real person once in a while. Speaking of #RealPeople it was a treasure to see  there Rachael Ritchey and Simon Farnell. That was the highlight of the day.

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Today All Hell Broke Loose. My Twitter Account And Vision For Invading Science Fiction Universe

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What a day. Earlier I started my official Facebook page and a public Facebook group – the Jalapeño Book Club . Like if that wasn’t social media overload, I just registered my  Twitter account @EllieMaloneyFic, where ‘Fic’ stands for fiction, but that was more than the allowed character limit. Twitter, right? How am I going to survive there? So far that rapid-fire communication world seems alien, and I make up aliens (almost) for living!

brain-plug-in.jpgWell, it’s official, folks. I am plugged in all the way. This is actually great news for indie authors and sci fi readers, because the more exposure I get, the better you will be able to access each other. I have started several initiatives aimed at building the reading community.

First one is the Jalapeño Book Club. And what a cool opportunity I’ve got to kick-start the book club! Reading through the five Hugo Award nominations in the remaining 13 weeks? Try to predict the winner? Follow the #HugoChallenge hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress, and join the reading events in the Jalapeño Book Club! Today is the third day for the sci fi  novel “Seveneves”, a highly rated 2015 release. Check it out and share your thoughts in the book club as you read through it. I will try blogging my impressions as often as I can while reading it. I am aiming for every day, but you know, shit happens. I have drafts to finish, and work to do, and family to take care of.

As we go through the #HugoChallenge over the next three months, I will add different subsets and reading events for the group. I already  know that we will have the the Stargate Fanfic reading events! More so, I already  found a great admin for this subset. Melanie Spicer is the founder of the Stargate Fan Club International  Facebook group and the Lost Worlds Sci Fi and Fantasy Forum, and a fantastic person in addition to all of that. Melanie and I share love of pets and sci fi.  In the future I envision all kinds of fanfic reading events hosted in the group, where readers can interact with the writers.

Another interesting feature is the Jalapeño Fiction Award, the award for the best sci fi novel in preceding year. This year we are honoring the 2015 releases. Read about the Jalapeño Fiction Award and Award Nominees. Also follow the #JalapenoFictionAward hashtag.

Finally, you will be able to read the interviews of the authors, several of which are already published on this page.

Back to the Twitter account. With registering on twitter I feel like conquering the holy triumvirate of social media, alongside with the Facebook and WordPress. That’s like the Warp 3, in the Star Trek terms. Not bad for five months of blogging.

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Ellie Maloney on Facebook – Let’s Be Friends

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My dear followers!

Over the past five months I have been sharing my thoughts and insights with you. I have met over 150 people who wished to follow me on the quest of diving into the world of sci fi. All of you are amazingly talented in your own way. We all create interesting content and have a lot to offer. Over these five months, I offered you many  different ways of interaction:

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Also, I am humble to say that all of this time I am on a learning curve as to what it means to be a blogger and a writer.

This is what my five months look like in terms of data. Over this time I did not use any tactics to gauge your subscriptions, to gain followers, or to boost traffic other than just writing. I wrote nearly 200 entries, according to my stats. I don’t know how much is it compared to other bloggers, but I know that each post takes ton of time in writing, editing and making it pretty with pictures, videos and hyperlinks.

Whenever appropriate, I gave credit to all of you for the amazing work you  do, where it is writing a novel, a short story, being a host to an event, or contributing anything else.

You have been generous to  me as well. You have nominated me for several awards, which always melted my heart and plastered a huge smile across my face.

As I am approaching a half-year blogging birthday, I decided that it is time to do more grown-up things, and for a blogger it means Facebook and Twitter. As for the Twitter, I am looking into it and soon will have an account as well. But today I finally made myself to go through all the registration hoops, and now I proudly present my Facebook residence.

  • @EllieMaloneyFiction is my author page, where I will share someday some of my writing, as I used to do on this blog. I  would like to become friends with you there as well. This is how you help me. 
  • Jalapeno Book Club is a public Facebook group where I host various reading events. I’ve talked to some of you already about including your books in the roster for the upcoming book club events. I don’t ask for free books, for advertisement fees or anything else, really. My goal is to bring to light your hard work and help it to find a reader. I invest a lot of time in writing reviews, posts, interviewing  authors, and this group will feature all of these efforts.  This is how I help you.

So please feel free to stop by my Facebook residence and invite as many friends to the Jalapeño Book Club, because someday it will benefit you. 

Thank you all for being great people,

Here’s to many more months and years together,

Sincerely,

Ellie Maloney

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Top 10 Pop Philosophers in 2015? You Will Be Shocked!

I thought I’d share my older post, from when I just started the blog. I didn’t know then that if you write more than 15 tags, the  post won’t show up in the Reader, so nobody saw it. But it is a fun one, and a bit different too. Enjoy. 

Who influences our thinking? Donald Trump? Caitlyn Jenner? J.K. Rowling? Jesus? No, No and No. According to The Telegraph (2015), these 10 spectacular personalities. Apparently, the criteria for th…

Source: Top 10 Pop Philosophers in 2015? You Will Be Shocked!

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OMG Hold Your Pants! Preview of John Scalzi’s New Book Cover! The Collapsing Empire, Out on March 21, 2017

Meanwhile I’m settling down with a ton of reading from 2015  sci fi and fiction, and writing reviews for some of them, to somehow make this waiting bearable. I honestly am losing my patience with Hollywood. When are they going to film something based on Scalzi’s books already? All that rumor  about the lunch with Tom Hanks.… Ok, maybe I contribute to those rumors to be spread. But if you have read The Old Man’s War, you wouldn’t blame me.

Source:

Read more about the book and the story in the original post!! Cover for The Collapsing Empire, My New Book, Out on March 21, 2017

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