Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

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This was a phenomenal wrap-up to the Wayfarers series, and seeing it come full circle back to Pei and her character amidst others in this universe was perfect.
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Becky Chambers has done it again! This final installment in the Wayfarers series highlights what is so refreshing and successful about the series as a whole: the heart. Every novel in this series is filled to the brim with it. I want to use the word "kind" and "soft", but these books still tackle difficult situations (and this one is certainly no different). Needless to say, I loved it. It was a little hard reading about characters in lockdown while the real world is dealing with much the same, but also made it extremely easy to relate to these alien characters in the same breath. 

I'm sad to see the Wayfarers universe go, but I'm excited for what Chambers will bring us next!
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A perfect quarantine read, a bottle episode in book form from the perspective of several different characters who are grounded at a travel stop. It’s so deeply felt, each character is so fully realized. And I felt especially seen by the (spoiler alert) character arc of a woman who decides that she’s just not interested in procreation despite the enormous social pressure.
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Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series is unlike any other speculative fiction series (as you'll see if you search for "books like Wayfarers"). Chambers is known for her focus on relationships between characters, beginning with the first book in the series, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Each of the works in the series offers a different perspective on the world of the Galactic Commons - more accurately, each offers a number of new perspectives, for Chambers excels at revealing this world through the eyes of different species. Don't fall in love with any of the wonderful characters in the Wayfarers' universe because you're unlikely to meet them again in another book. That is especially true in this final (can it be?) installment of the series. Chambers goes all in on the character-driven approach, stranding her five main characters in a domed spaceport on the airless planet of Gora, waiting for a crisis to pass so they can continue on their journeys. Three of the five are space travelers - an Aeluon, an Akarak, and a Quelin -- while the remaining two are Laru and the hosts of the Five-Hop One-Stop. Most of these have rejected or rebelled against the traditions, values, or laws of their species and homeworlds, and each has plans or duties that are threatened by being grounded on Gora. Unable to leave, they drink, eat, argue, and ultimately help each other (and the reader) better understand the complex universe of Chambers' making.
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This series is like my new Star Trek—which isn't to say it's utopian. Becky Chambers has created a universe with many sentient species of alien, all with wildly different cultures, each as complex as the next. As you can imagine, these differences create all sorts of tension and misunderstanding. What makes this series like Star Trek to me is that it's made up of a hugely diverse cast of characters that try their best to be thoughtful and inclusive and it just warms my heart.⁣
Science fiction is so often used as a lens to see the future of humanity as the consequences of our worst impulses. A future shaped by greed and war. Becky Chambers instead shows us a future fueled by cooperation and a desire for mutual understanding. It's a future not without it's flaws but all the more hopeful for the efforts made to confront them.⁣
Each of the books in this series is self-contained, meaning you can read as many or a few as you like without missing any larger plot. I would still recommend starting from the beginning so that you catch the references in the later books. If you haven't read much scifi before, I can't think of a better place to start.⁣
In this installment we follow a cast of characters all staying at the same guesthouse on what is essentially the planetary version of a rest stop. Conflict and friendship ensues. As always Becky Chambers comes through with amazing representation. One character and her twin are both disabled (this is such a weird word to use for members of an alien species but that's undoubtedly what they are.) One has a physical disability with her legs and the other is chronically ill. I loved to see the mutual care they provided eachother. It's a small thing but so lovely and thoughtful to include.
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As expected from Becky Chambers, this finale to the Wayfare series was spectacular.  Chambers knack for character development draws you quickly into the story.  There were many social and political plot points that worked well without overwhelming the story.  I look forward to what this author has for us next.
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Ouloo and her son, Tupo, run the Five-Hop One-Stop – a way station on the planet Gora, where long-haul travelers can stop to break and stretch their legs, etc. She prides herself on offering something that will make every species comfortable during their stay. When a random tech failure strands her current visitors there for days, these strangers get to know each other and expand their own awareness. Pei, a cargo runner (who readers will recognize from earlier books as the Aeluon who is in a secret relationship with Captain Ashby) gets some personal news that puts her at a major crossroads during this time. Roveg is a Quelin with a very time-sensitive and emotional appointment he needs to keep. Speaker, an Akarak (a mysterious and not-very-well-understood species), finds herself making friends and standing up for her species in a way she never really has before, having lived mostly on the fringes. And finally, Tupo, the young Laru whose enthusiasm and youthful vibe bring a lightness to the otherwise potentially very somber group, and when xe makes a decision that puts xyrself in harms way, brings the group together in unexpected ways.

As I said in my intro, Chambers has done it again. I cannot freaking get enough of this series: the world, the characters, the perfect diversity, the language, and the incredible social commentary that applies in so many ways to our own Earth-bound reality. And it’s so incredible because it is all so impressive and immersive that I couldn’t put this book down even though, in all honestly, it really had no plot. This was just the most wonderful character-building and interaction-based novel. Chambers can write species coming together in a foreign yet totally familiar way like no one else. The nuances of learning and willingness to communicate and prejudices and defensiveness are written so well. And as a nerd-reader, I love love love the details we get about each species’ traditions and livelihoods and beliefs and histories and the way those are more or less well known, accepted, understood, included within the greater Galactic Commons. I cannot fathom the amount of background work and imagination that went into creating all that, because the skill and depth with which its written, the clarity with which it comes through to the reader, can only be that way as a result of serious unseen scaffolding on Chambers’ part.

In particular, as always, I have to highlight the lingual explorations, from the greater detail into Aeluon colors to the Quelin double-script for denotation and connotation to the Akarak words that are based in culture and therefore have no translations, I was fascinated. The language creativity, from the start, has been one of my favorite things about these novels and that remains true here. Along these lines, what really stuck out for me thematically in this volume was the way Chambers included and addressed universal concepts like colonialism and xenophobia and the different (but equally strong) fear inherent in both. It was profound and, like I said, has many clear interpretive readings that have clear parallels and implications in our own world in dealings with those different from ourselves. It just really shows the breadth of culture and makes one wonder how much could be under different, more open/willing, circumstances.

One more thing. Chambers hits the heartstrings in this one with the unyielding yearning for home because it’s home, even if you objectively know all the flaws it also holds. It got me right in the feels. And the traveler-stop setting, with an external threat that allows each character to really delve into their reasons for wanting to go back to/find/redefine “home” for themselves, was the perfect backdrop to develop those insights and self-reflections. The endings for each of the characters, on this note, truly (and pun sort of intended) hit home for me and for two of them I definitely teared up a bit.  

Ugh – the creativity and uniquity that I’ve come to realize is Chambers’ norm is strong in this final installation in the Wayfarers series. I could read her writing, writing from this world in particular, all day every day and still not get enough. And I remain in awe of the way she takes the “normal” people and gives them such compelling stories. Every single book and character in this series is just a regular being, going about their lives and jobs under regular life circumstances, just like anyone else – there are no chosen ones or world-saving or catastrophic apocalypses to be found. And yet these books freaking captivate me. I have no words. Just…spectacular.
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Listen … Becky Chambers can do no wrong. I have never read something by her that I did not enjoy, and every single one of her works makes me smile and laugh and tear up and feel so hopeful and GOOD.

Following the story of a tea monk (which sounds like THE BEST JOB EVER) named Dex who encounters a wild robot named Mosscap (cutest name ever, I told you Chambers could do no wrong), this story manages to squeeze so many important ideas about humanity, religion, self-worth, work, nature, and friendship into a mere 160 pages. I savored every page of this book and I know I will be reading it again soon.
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What a cozy book! I've come to expect the Wayfarers books to be lovely reads with some emotional heft and The Galaxy and the Ground Within is no exception. Like previous books in the series, this entry is light on action and plot and focuses more on characters interactions and conversations. It's a joy to read, and Becky Chambers' creativity with alien races, cultures, and languages is one of the highlights of the series. I loved reading about these characters and the ways they learn to relate to each other. In all honesty, the Wayfarers series is one I wish would never end and I'm sad to see this as the last entry, but happy it ended on such a high note!
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Becky Chambers has helped me relate to the youth of today with her use of gender terms. This book is about different species trapped together on a planet during a disaster and how they work together to get through it. The author writes in a light hearted manner. I have enjoyed all the books in this series.
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Free copy provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review

This is hands down my favorite of the series. I love the way this series explores life in all its forms and the relationships that are built and destroyed because of that. There is always that cozy vibe of a warm blanket throughout this book even though we are following several characters none of which are human. I loved that element the most. I especially loved getting all the world-building and watching as the characters navigate this disaster and each other. This was an exquisite delight and I can't wait to re-read it
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Becky Chambers is an amazing author who has created a wonderful science fiction world. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is a fitting conclusion to a such a wholesome series.
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The fourth installment in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series brings readers along on a quieter space adventure than the previous volumes. A cast of mismatched, entirely non-human crews of several spaceships are stranded by a telecommunications accident on a remote planet. These widely varying species of sapients learn to relate to each other in bold new ways through their shared needs. With a cast of characters that will fascinate readers, Chambers once again shows her sci-fi expertise.
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I just loved it! I've read the first three in the series but it's been a little while, but this threw me back into the world of Aeluons, Aandrisks, modders, wormhole space travel, and feel good character's trying to find their way and their own meaning in life. 
The fact that it was about strangers thrown together at a random, small "town" (planet) truck stop who then connected with each other and learned things about themselves and became more accepting - made me love it more. Some scifi readers might not like these books, but if you like her others, I think you'll like this. I loved it. 
The author is so creative and she brings in discussions about gender, body autonomy, parenthood, colonialism, War, genocide, discrimination, all through these sweet aliens you grow to know and love! It's like a warm hug and a cup of hot tea in a book.
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Gora is a planet with absolutely nothing going for it — no native life, no atmosphere, nothing — except for its location at the conjunction of five wormholes, making it the perfect place for habitat domes to set up shop as the truck stop of the galaxy. When Gora's satellite shuttles are destroyed during a routine maintenance job, five people of four different species (none human) are stuck together in the Five-Hop One-Stop's dome, biding their time until the skies are clear enough for them to continue their travels. Over the space of a few days, they learn that despite their differences, they have much more in common than they ever expected.

After reading this, I have several emotions swirling around my brain. First, contentment at having read a stellar book full of kindness and consideration and just a bit of action. Second, sadness that this is the final book in Chambers' phenomenal Wayfarers series. Third, joy that I can reread those books whenever I want (and you can bet I will). Fourth, amazement at Chambers' ability to tackle so many heady topics with such care and control without making this seem like a sermon. And finally, anticipation at what she'll do next. Bring it on!
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Becky Chambers is fantastic at setting a wistful, warm tone in her work, and I am so excited to see where she goes next. This is a wonderful return to the Galactic Commons.
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This book is truly wonderful. Although I wasn't sure how it was going to work based on the premise, I never doubted Chambers because this whole series has been an absolute delight. Something I really appreciate about the books is that while reading them in order helps, it isn't strictly necessary. I class these books as cozy scifi - while there's massive intergalactic space stuff happening, they're really about the people just living their lives. The construction of the book is masterful and brings together disparate storylines in an authentic way. The adventure here is small and contained, focusing on isolated problems that all connect to something larger. I have to say, the ending got me straight in the heart. It just... capped everything off in the most perfect way.
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Gora is a pretty unremarkable planet. It is basically a rock with no water or air. It is a sort of rest stop on the way to somewhere else. The Five-Hop-One-Stop is a rest station on Gora where you can get food or fuel and take a break from driving your ship. It is run by an alien mom and her child. After an incident traps a group of strangers on the planet, they are forced to get to know each other. They come from various species, backgrounds etc.

This is the sort of laid-back, contemplative sci-fi that I've come to expect from Becky Chamber's Wayfarer's series. Here we don't have TOO much going on, just a lot of conversations and thoughts. Different people, different beliefs that all come to understand each other a little more after being forced to spend time together. As usual there are aspects of sexuality and gender that play a part in the story that Chambers is telling. This is inclusive, feel-good fiction at its best.

What to listen to while reading...
Alien Days by MGMT
Habits (Hippie Sabotage Remix) by Tove Lo
Breathless by Caroline Polachek
home with you by FKA Twigs
Feeling Lonely by boy pablo
Horizons by Surfaces
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3 stars, <a href="">Metaphorosis Reviews</a>

A set of strangers of different species have each stopped at a planetary waystation for a layover, but are trapped together for a long period, and get to know each other. 

My reading of this series is not ideal – the first book and this last one. From what I’ve read, though, and from what I’ve heard of the intervening books, I’m not too sorry about it. Many people seem to love this series, and there are certainly things to like about it. I found this book, though, as with the first one – <em>The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet </em>– extremely slow going.

This book appears intended to wrap up and intertwine the threads of several of the series’ characters – all of different species. Perhaps due to that, it read to me more like an exploration of those species than a story in itself. We learn heaps and heaps about each species – almost as if Chambers is throwing into this last book all the neat stuff she thought up and hadn’t found a place for until now. It’s xenologically interesting, but doesn’t make for great plot.

The other thing that wore on me – both in this book and to some extent the last – is that all the characters are relentlessly good. They have different opinions, they argue (a little), but they’re all good people trying to do good things. I liked them all, but all good and no bad made for low tension, and, frankly, low credibility. When have you spent a long time with a group of strangers not one of whom has any major bad traits – or even minor ones that get a little annoying? Every character here is endlessly interested in learning about others, reforming their own behaviour, and deeply comprehending others’ viewpoints. I agree with all those things; I think they’re important in the real world. But I also have a hard time suspending my disbelief that everyone would act that way.

Maybe Chambers set out to write an optimistic novel, to counterbalance the grimdark there’s so much of. If so, she succeeded. Unfortunately, optimistic as it is, I also didn’t find it enthralling. It was a pleasant read, but felt very long and slow-moving.

<strong>I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.</strong>
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Becky Chambers has done it again. She's given us her trademark standout culturebuilding, imaginative xenotypes, and inclusive characters. She's given us a reflective, heavily character-driven interplay with ample opportunity for introspection and extrospection. Her subtle touch at revealing the messiness and tension present with the intersection of diverse cultures and perspectives, even under a veneer of pleasantry, is masterful. Readers who enjoyed the other entries in the 'Wayfarers' series will find themselves on familiar ground here, with this one probably farthest toward the character-driven and reflective vs. plot-driven and fast-paced end of the spectrum.

With a motley group of non-humans unexpectedly trapped together in a literal bubble and forced to reckon with their biases, ignorances, and internal conflicts, Chambers has given us perhaps the perfect novel to reflect on our time in pandemic life. Ultimately, she has demonstrated once again that realism and optimism in speculative fiction need not be mutually exclusive.

4 Stars; Hopeful and Excellent
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