#RRSciFiMonth Read Along: A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (#3)

SciFi Month 2015

Marking my first post on WordPress rather than LJ (turns out moving platform is like moving house; terrifying and exhilarating and oddly requiring far more tea and boxes than you expected), it’s the third week of the #RRSciFiMonth read-along of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (previous weeks here and here) organised by Over the Effin’ Rainbow.

I’ve fallen behind due to Life and Other Animals, so it’s a belated round 3 today in brief advance of the final week of the read-along plus a review tomorrow.

Our host for week 3 is Claire Rousseau who has set some excellent questions (it goes without saying that this far through the book there will be spoilers, yes/yes?)

1) There is a lot of focus on some of the different alien races in this section, from Dr Chef recounting the story of his people’s decline and Sissix introducing Rosemary to her families, to the surprise visit from the Aeluons and the much less welcome search by the Quelin. What are your thoughts on the various beliefs systems we encounter? Does anything specific pique your interest more than the rest?

I’m loving the extended tour of the galaxy as we go a Long Way and get to know (some of) its inhabitants better. Each chapter shines a bit more light on the crew members: we get to know and understand Sissix better; we get an unexpected close encounter with Corbin; and we get a real appreciation for Kizzy’s expertise and bravery.

The extended flexible Aandrisk families are wonderful and speak to my heart. I was an accident and I’m lucky that my egg mother is also my hatch mother – it could easily have ended up otherwise given her circumstances – but I can certainly recognise my feather family (although being human we’re very platonic!). The Aandrisk relationships mirror the old adage that friends are the family you choose and then adds plenty of extra layers, and I love how Sissix explains it all. It’s lovely to see such a positive example of a non-nuclear family. We love our families – all of them – regardless of particular biological connections.

If the Aandrisk were as big-hearted as I expected, the Aeluons were far less uptight than advertised, to the extent that I didn’t feel we really got to understand the constraints Pei/Ashby feel about their relationship. However, I liked getting to know Pei better. I also rather liked that we didn’t find out her mission or her cargo. Very professional!

As for the Quelins, well they’re far from sympathetic but they hold a useful mirror up to some human qualities we might not like to think about. I think that’s where Small Angry Planet really excels – nothing it shows us is truly alien; it’s ideas we encounter that we may struggle to understand wrapped up in a way that makes them more relatable. Life, it’s glorious and varied.

2. Ashby gets the chance to give Pei a tour of his ship and introduce her to his crew, meanwhile Jenks and Lovey decide not to risk transferring the AI into a body just yet, and Rosemary initiates a relationship of sorts with Sissix. Were you happy to see any of these developments, or not so fussed?

I was pretty comfortable with all these developments and basically delighted with Sissix/Rosemary, which had been coming for a while. I’ve got a soft spot for both of them, and I also liked that there’s a hint that this may become a romantic pairing, but it starts of as a matter of family.

I actually heaved a sigh of relief when Lovey came out and said she wasn’t that fussed about having a body. I think I flagged up front that I didn’t quite understand why an AI would pine for one, and to find she wanted it only as an expression of her love for Jenks was oddly reassuring. Biology – not the only form of life that makes sense. I’m glad Jenks is being level-headed; it speaks well of him that his heart isn’t overruling his head on this one and that he puts Lovey’s safety first.

3. Cloning technology exists and is used in many sci-fi universes, but the GC does not look kindly on it and it is abomination to the Quelin. Did the reveal of Corbin’s nature change your view of the character?

Oh hell, Corbin will probably still have a bad attitude, but it was interesting to get perspective on him and Rosemary’s legal out was hilarious. I do like a good bit of narrative pay off!

We didn’t really get to find out much about why cloning is so unpopular. I mean, the Quelin seem like they’ll disapprove of pretty much anything (and we’re given to understand they have good historical reasons specific to their distaste for cloning), but for the rest of the GC it’s all hand-wavey. Clones don’t bother me – I like Orphan Black too much, and once something is conscious I firmly believe it has rights regardless of how it was created – so it didn’t change my attitude to Corbin, but it was fascinating to get the glimpse of his childhood and understand more about why he is the way he is.
4. Each chapter told a different and fairly self-contained story, without any big cliffhangers from one to the next. How did you feel about the pacing of the story so far? Are you satisfied with how long the long journey is taking or are you impatient for the crew to finally get to their destination and do some tunnelling?

I’m definitely enjoying the ride. It does feel episodic (which has made the staggered group read work well), but each minisode is gripping and entertaining in its own right. And we’re getting enough hints along the way that there may be trouble ahead…

On to the finale – I’m looking forward to seeing what Toremi space has in hold for the Wayfarer!