If you’re looking for a fun space opera with depth and heart, check out Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.
I snagged a copy from Left Bank Books at Archon 46.
This book kept showing up on my to-read list, and I understand why. It’s a delightful romp.
It's also a true page-turner. The climax at the end was a nail-biter. I stayed up late finishing the book!
The two primary characters are Captain Ashby, an idealistic man born on a generation ship, and Rosemary, a human from the Mars colony with a shameful secret. The Wayfarer is piloted by a reptilian alien who prefers to be naked and engage in group sex (nothing pornographic). The two techs that keep the Wayfarer running are a tattooed dwarf in love with the ship’s AI system, and a woman who’s LOUD in voice, mannerisms, and clothing. A cantankerous scientist, six-limbed chef, and symbiont Navigator complete the crew.
Despite the huge cast of characters, all of whom have point-of-view scenes, it never gets confusing. The author also manages to make the nonhuman characters both alien and empathetic:
- “Ohan [the symbiont Navigator] was afraid. They could disconnect themself from fear, but it lingered, like an unpleasant taste in the back of the throat. Fear. Such a throwback emotion, meant to spur primitive life-forms away from potential predators. Life’s universal constant.”
- [Sissix the reptilian pilot trying to understand human grief]: “The death of a child about to feather, yes, that was sad. But the real tragedy was the loss of an adult with friends and lovers and family. The idea that a loss of potential was somehow worse than a loss of achievement and knowledge was something she had never been able to wrap her brain around.”
- [The philosophical six-limbed Chef]: “People can do terrible things when they feel safe and powerful. . . . all any of us can do is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it.”
- [Ohan the symbiont Navigator]: “You kill microbes all the time, in your kitchens, your cargo, without a second thought. But consider the bacteria living in your skins, your mouths, your guts, creatures you could not survive without. You, too, are a synthesis between organisms large and small.”