First off, the cover – I love it! I love these expanse of space from earth photos, with more stars in the sky than I ever did see in a city life. It is a pretty cover, and that’s probably the best adjective really – pretty. I like it. Of course, I bought this on kindle so I don’t get to admire the lovely starry night spacey cover. Which is sad. I mean, look at how beautiful it is?
This book is about a tunnelling crew, a mixture of species and personalities, living together on their ship with their sentient AI after a human female joins them and they accept a huge job to build a wormhole in the middle of a territorial war. The characters are amazing: a human man bought up on an interstellar Exodus ship is the captain, the navigator is reptilian with feathers, the doctor/chef has handfeet and many of them, and the navigator is infected with a virus that makes them see a different plane of space, and is also a “they”. There are humanoid techs, and the new human female is the clerk, joining to sort out the shambles that is the captains records.
There isn’t much in the way of “fast action” – if you like sci-fi with dramatic adventures and gun fights and goo, this probably isn’t your speed. Instead, the plot is that the crew are given a job, and they travel to said job (taking about a year to do so) stopping at various space ports across the universe to do so. The focus is on how the crew interact, how society affects love and imposes restrictions on people by their species or culture. It is about how the crew trust each other and work together when space literally starts to collapse around them. It is about finding family and the immense vastness of the universe.
The book tackles racism, intergalactic politics, conflicting cultures, sexuality, family, rules and society. The technological aspects were pretty low tech, sometimes the solution is to let Kizzy loose, sometimes the solution is just a “turn it off and back on again” that we can all empathise with. It’s understandable tech, and because the mechanic and the techie are the only ones who really understand the workings of the technology, they simplify it even more. Also, the captain is a huge pacifist. So, the crew are never the ones holding the guns. The viewpoint in the book switches frequently between the crew, partly I think, to illustrate how they are all different people with different priorities that bought them aboard the Wayfarer and different ways of interacting. There are some mild sexual themes, but nothing explicit, more implicated.
Honestly, angry planet, reminded me of Firefly but without the overwhelming need to punch them in the face, nor the guns, and adding in a huge variety of species rather than Joss Wheedon assuming the only species in the universe are humans. It reminds me a bit of the Cantina from Star Wars. So, this is a book about inclusivity, and examining how different cultures interact around each other. As someone who likes their sci-fi examining such themes (I mean, look at how much I loved Arrival with the emphasis on learning and that science takes time rather than boom boom) this book was incredibly enjoyable. I loved how the characters are developed and how they interact and how they rely on each other in times of emotional and real stress. I just like stories where people find family where they weren’t expecting to if I’m honest. It is a realist novel that just so happens to be set in space with aliens. It just works.
I cried at one point. On the train.
I am totally not surprised that Angry Planet has been nominated for all sorts, I enjoyed it immensely and wished it continued after the last page. The books in the series are inter-related standalones apparently, as the second book A Closed and Common Orbit is about the Wayfarer AI, Lovelace, at the end of the book. I hope to read the second one, but as they are independent books within the same universe I am planning on waiting a little while before reading it.