The long way to a small angry planet

When we try to imagine truly Alien things, we fail so predictably. So much of sci-fi is populated by resemblences either dredged up from the deep sea or squinted at down a microscope. Everyday, certainly not, but Alien? I am always disappointed by what we depict as being out there. However strange, I cannot help but focus on the neatness of similarities, communication, features that seem unlikely to me in this big universe.

This was a grudge I quickly came to hold against this book. A grudge which, made me almost entirely miss the point. The differences are costume, the similarities are the interesting bits. It is just easier to explore when you pretend we are not actually dealing with humans.

A while after finishing this book I spoke about it to a friend who was unburdened by my grudge.

It reminded me how intriguing the premise is. A motley group. A distant, mysterious place, always closed and now suddenly open. A journey through danger to get there.

It reminded me how many interesting things the book has to say, for example about family. I fixated on the unlikeliness of one crew member, basically a space bird dinosaur. Which left no space for the far more interesting things it said. It talks about three types of family, the family that birthed you, the family you grew up with and the family you made for yourself in later life. These families went beyond ties of genetics, making unshakable bonds with childhood friends and new siblings of adult ones.

This was another book I picked up with zero knowledge, simply because Ars Technica said it was worth a summer read. They describe it as “soft and cosy reading”, yet I approached it looking for something plausible and hard. In doing so I missed the point.

On reflection, an enjoyable book. I should give it the courtesy of a re-read at some point. I look forward to taking a more open mind to encounter it’s sequels.

| Huw ·