Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Wayfarers series, four character-driven sci-fi books all loosely connected in the same interstellar Galactic Commons setting, has been an absolute breath of fresh air. A palate cleanser from the dystopian world we find ourselves living in. I recommend starting with THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET, but each stands alone and can come in any order after that. This last one, THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN, is one of my favorites. 

A small group of strangers is temporarily stuck in the middle of galactic nowhere, in a random rest stop at a wormhole crossroads. They are all different species, all have somewhere else they need to be, someone else they'd rather be with. Their host is gracious, but tensions remain. Of course, that basic plot description gives away about as much of the real story as a Quelin's rigid exoskeleton. And that's what I love about Chambers's books — the world building is superb, and the characters are beautifully drawn, but the story at the heart of each book is both intimate, focusing on interspecies interpersonal relationships, and expansive, with a philosophical, big-ideas base. They're warm, profound, uplifting, heart-expanding human stories. Even the ones with hardly any humans in them.

Topics, tropes and themes: diversity, physical ability and accommodations, gender, war, politics, colonialism, refugees, hospitality, kindness, family, bodily autonomy, stranded strangers

Content notes: strong language, exiled character separated from family, colonialism, references to war and battle, references to sex, injured child in a coma
Was this review helpful?
Contemporary life is a busy thing, full of demands and schedules and deadlines and destinations. The same holds true in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer universe, where a cadre of sapient species are part of an intergalactic civilization called the Galactic Commons (GC, for short) with its own rules, expectations, and inequities.

It’s natural for those in the GC—just like it’s natural for us humans on Earth—to get lost in the day-to-day of one’s own life and the immediate stressors and concerns that go with it. And it’s equally jarring—as the year that was 2020 has shown all of us—when the routine and freedoms we took for granted get upended.

That brings us to The Galaxy, and the Ground Within. The sci-fi story takes place almost entirely down the well, a world that Chambers describes in the book’s first pages as, “one bone-dry planet of mediocre size, possessing no moon, no rings, nothing to harvest, nothing worth mining, nothing to gasp at while on vacation. It was merely a rock, with a halfhearted wisp of atmosphere clinging meagerly to its surface. The planet’s name was Gora, the Hanto word for useless.”

Gora’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s a pit stop, the intergalactic equivalent of a rest station that resides near a hub of interspatial tunnels that people in the Wayfarer universe use to get to more interesting planets and places. But when a catastrophic event grounds all travel, we spend time there with a handful of stranded travelers and their host, each of whom has their own distractions, their own preconceived notions, their own stories.

This group of initial strangers are quite different from each other—none of them are the same species, for one, and they all have subtle stereotypes or implicit biases about the others.

They also, however, are able to see the individuals in front of them, overcome their preconceived notions, and make connections that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The reader can’t help but make connections with the characters as well—like Chambers’ other books in the series, this is a story about people rather than plot, and each person is fully fleshed out.

The characters in The Galaxy, and the Ground Within are also unique (to us human readers, at least) because there isn’t a single homo sapien among them. There’s Speaker, a tiny beaked Akarak whose species had been enslaved and currently has no planet; Pei, an Aeluon who speaks in colors and is at a personal crossroads; Roveg, a many-legged Quelin who has been banished from his own kind for publicly saying other species are not inferior; and Ouloo and her child Tupo, furry long-necked and four-pawed Laru who have made a home on the “useless” planet.

Just because they aren’t human, however, doesn’t mean that the struggles the characters go through don’t resonate with humanity’s own societal faults. Speaker’s species, for example, was historically enslaved, and even now that they are “liberated,” they’ve been shunned by the rest of the GC. Other sapients generally view Akaraks with suspicion, and the group on Gora didn’t consider Akaraks at all, much less how they are treated. Sound familiar?

The book’s plot—as much as it has one—is that for all their differences, the group first comes to respect each other, then depend on each other, and finally, become changed by each other. That’s not to say that there aren’t conflicts or moments of fear, but at its heart, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a story of people who are inherently decent and striving to do the right thing.

While it’s likely Chambers started this book before the events that were 2020, a post-pandemic (well, almost post, hopefully) reading can’t help but resonate with our own unexpected pause, how an unplanned and undesired halt to where we think we’re going can change things irrevocably.

Handling the unexpected, however, is not the exception to life, but the rule. “Life was never a matter of one decision alone,” Pei thinks near the end of the book. “Life was just a bunch of tiny steps, one after another, each conclusion that lead to a dozen questions more.” Everyone stuck on Gora experiences that by the end of the book. And everyone on Gora is now connected, not only through their shared experience, but through their empathy and appreciation of those not exactly like themselves. We should all learn that lesson, and fans of Chambers’ previous Wayfarer books will love this one as well.
Was this review helpful?
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received a copy of this sci-fi novel from NetGalley in exchange for me honest musings . . .

This is the last book of the series and I adored it.  While all four can potentially be read as standalones, I have loved each subsequent book more and more and recommend them in order of publication.  I honestly go back and forth about which is me favourite and will certainly be reading the series over and over again.

The book takes place near the planet Gora whose planet has no value except as a way-stop for people traveling to other places.  Three such travelers find themselves stranded there due to a mechanical failure.  The interactions between the characters while they wait are what drive the plot and action.  I was hesitant about some at first but by the end loved them all.

Unlike the other books in this series, humans are not main characters and only play a minor role.  The result is learning about the other races through the lens of their own cultures.  It was lovely.  This can be read as just a feel-good story or, as always, the reader can drawn deeper insight about our own cultures and belief systems.

To me all the books in the series tie together so well even if at first glance they seem to have less in common.  Becky Chambers is skilled at payoff but it is not flashy or bright.  It is comfy, cozy, and hopeful.  Sometimes that is exactly what I need.  Arrrr!
Was this review helpful?
It was a real treat to spend a whole book focusing on non-human characters. Through their perspectives we humans are strange beings with a love for milk and cheese (one of my favorite scenes). Like her other novels, each chapter was from the point of view of one of the characters. The book had a good pace and was easy to read. There was an overarching plot, but the real focus was on each character's backstory and their interaction with other alien species.          

Throughout the series I have been fascinated by each alien species and appreciated how distinct each was. The creativity behind the making of each specie is where Becky Chambers', as an author, shines. I love the sci-fi genre because of its exploration into the unknown. This book series allowed me to use my imagination and picture a world far, far away from here.  

I was so excited when I heard that Becky Chambers was coming out with a new book! Then, I was sadden to read that this is the final installment to the Wayfarer series. I hope she gets inspiration in the future to continue on in the rich universe she has created.
Was this review helpful?
I've just been in a "humorous sci fi that makes you think about life in a different way" kind of mood lately and Becky Chambers always delivered. Her fourth installment in the Wayfairers series does not disappoint!

I loved "Long Way to a Small Angry Planet" so much and told everyone in my orbit to read it. While the second book didn't quite grab my attention, and I never got around to book #3, something about the premise of the fourth book pulled me toward it, and I am so glad it did. 

I absolutely love character driven stories like this one. Not much happens, so if you're looking for the high-stakes quest-driven plot of book 1, that's not what this book is. But if you want to learn more about this fascinating world Chambers has created and read about different people coming together and making genuine connections despite their biases and preconceived notions, I would definitely recommend picking up this book.

While I don't think you have to have read all of the books to enjoy this, I do think there are some things I would have recognized with more familiarity if I'd read books 2 and 3. I would at least recommend reading the first book before diving in to this one. 

I sincerely look forward to what Chambers writes next!
Was this review helpful?
While this is Wayfarers #4 you can start reading here as this series is very different. In fact all four books can stand alone. I loved the story line but did have a hard time with how to navigate the story. I kept skipping action and having to go back and find what I missed. And I did not want to miss any part of the story. This is about perceptions about people and what happens to those perceptions when you are thrown together. A good story for this time. We need to go past perceptions and find out who people really are.
Was this review helpful?
I just love this series so much! This book is the equivalent of a sitcom “bottle” episode, where the cast is in only one or a few locations, and there isn’t much to do, so they develop deeper relationships. In Wayfarers terms, this means being stuck in the galactic equivalent of a convenience store on a long trip. No one is where they are going, they are just waiting to go where they are going. So there’s a random assortment of characters, including Pei of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. (I just love how this series is tangentially related, each one set in a different place, with different people, except for one person you know from another of the novels.)

All of the characters are pretty delightful, and they are all good-hearted folks (I love how, with few exceptions, everyone in the Wayfarers series is kind and has good intentions). They learn about each other’s cultures, including meeting a new species who have been denied a home planet, and left in the cold by the Galactic Commons government. It’s an effective way to show the point of view of someone whose value has been ignored by society, and with systemic difficulties and prejudices stacked against them.

I love these books because they are interesting and thoughtful, filled with great characters, and nothing too bad ever happens. They are an antidote to me for most of the heavier literature out there. I’m using the word “love” a lot, but I can’t think of a better descriptor. These books are like a nice warm blanket on a cold and rainy day; so comforting and cozy and nice, which is something I really appreciate after the difficulties of the last few years.

I’m disappointed to learn that this is the end of the Wayfarers series. But I know that I absolutely love anything that Chambers writes, so I’m definitely here for whatever comes next.
Was this review helpful?
My heart!!!!!!! What can I say about Becky Chambers that I haven't already said a thousand times before? I just absolutely adore the Wayfarers series and this book was no exception. The characters in this wrapped themselves around my heart in all the best ways and I cried my way through the last 10% of this one because I just cared for all of the characters so damn much. If you love character driven stories and haven't yet checked out this series, YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO RIGHT THIS MINUTE. It is EVERYTHING.
Was this review helpful?
A hardware malfunction causes a cascade of crashing comm satellites over the Five-Hop One-Stop space station causing the quarantine of all beings present.  In a story long on socio-cultural world building and short on plot, individuals from four  different species are forced to spend time together while each desperately needs to get back to the life that was abruptly brought to a halt. A quarantine story for our time…

Chambers excels at building intricate and engaging cultures which makes the relatively absent plot easy to overlook.  She manages to include all of the current “hot topics” camouflaged in non-humanoid skins. Roveg is the insectoid Quelin who takes in information through smells and has a completely non-emotive space;  Pei the Aeluon cargo captain who loves a human against the interspecies mating taboo of her kind; Speaker is the perpetually space-suited Akarak as the only planet that could support her methane-breathing life was rendered useless in a previous war; and Ouloo and not-yet-gendered offspring Tupo are the furry Laru who host the station. Throughout their enforced stay, the four learn about each other’s cultures, opinions, and preferences in a pretty interesting set of expositions on modes of communication, mating rituals, taboos, etc.

It’s nice to read a speculative fiction story that isn’t fully dystopian.  We’re not embedded in Ewoks here — there are plenty of problems and even a history of downright atrocities — but the characters are able move forward in a more positive way after their experience in a model that suggests how this might be done for any of us.  A harmless and relatively uplifting book.
Was this review helpful?
My favorite of the Wayfarers series so far! Five people from four different Sapient species-- a mother and child running a rest stop, a long haul captain fresh from a military zone, a political exile, and a misunderstood trader--form unlikely bonds after being stranded together during a catastrophic satellite outage. This has everything I love about Becky Chambers stories: interesting science fiction, compelling characters and stories, and so much humanity even when she's describing other species and beings. Full of so much heart and hope. Can't recommend this one enough!
Was this review helpful?
I think this is my favorite book of this entire series? This book follows three travelers who are stranded in a small habitat bubble on a planet when air traffic is put on hold for a few days. One of the fascinating things about this book is that none of the main characters are human and this gives Chambers the space to really shine. Her creativity and world building are absolutely unmatched.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Becky Chambers has done it again! The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet quickly became on of my favorite Sci-fi reads of all time back in 2017 and ever since I've been following this series closely. And this book did not disappoint, I loved it just as much as I loved the first book way back when, if anything it is a complete comfort series for me and this book solidified that. As always Chambers does an amazing job of social commentary and exploring humanity, morality, and why we so vehemently believe in the things we believe in. Chambers constantly reminds me as a reader why I empathy and compassion for others is so important. Further, I love the characters so so much and while I'm not always the best at keeping space related terms and worlds straight in my head, it's never a problem in these books! I'm here for a good time and a good time! Thank you again for the opportunity to read this book early and Beck Chambers will continue to be an auto-buy author for me.
Was this review helpful?
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
By. Becky Chambers
P. 368
Format: eArc
Rating: *****
**********************
I received an e-arc from @Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
**********************
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the fourth book in the Wayfarers series. Each book in the series is set in the same universe. While you do not follow the same characters, the books themselves have some connection linking them back to the first book. You do not have to read them in order, it is only my own sense of order that would recommend that you do so.

In this fourth book we are stuck at a fulling station on a lifeless planet Gora that exists under an environmental bubble. Three very different ships visit the station run by a Laru mother and her child who has yet to select a gender. When tragedy strikes the five individuals are stuck together unexpectedly. The next few days will change who they are as individuals and will cement a bond that will continue for the rest of their days.

The brilliance of Chamber’s writing is her ability to create characters. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the first book in the Wayferer’s series that only has humans in the plot as an abstract concept. All the characters are nonhuman, yet we human readers can relate to them in a way that will leave us emotionally torn. Each species is different, and each person is different within their own species. All these aspects are shown through their every interaction. It leaves us, the reader, also changed on some fundamental level.

I have loved each book in the series, and I would say that this fourth book is not my favorite. The plot is almost nonexistent and it took me a bit to center myself on where I was and what was happening. However, I would also say that this is the most impactful book in the series, to date. It is the one that has stayed with me on an emotional level more then the others. So, perhaps it is my favorite after all.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, but have not read the rest. This book can standalone as the characters--with the exception of one--are not related to the earlier book. The first book had more action; this is much more about the characters, all of whom are NOT human. Some of the interactions felt like human interactions with alien actors, but it was still a fun read.

My favorite section of the story was the conversation about humans and cheese. (I guess some people might not get it, but I developed a reaction to whey, so I can't eat dairy, and people regularly tell me they would "literally die" if they couldn't have cheese. Um, no, you definitely wouldn't literally die without cheese.)
Was this review helpful?
I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I also won a physical copy from Goodreads and an so excited to add this book to my physical shelves. 

Becky Chambers is not for everyone. Her prose is flawless. Her characters are all one of a kind. Chambers uses intergalactic characters to teach us more about ourselves here on Earth. However, there is virtually no plot to her books. If you are a plot driven reader, you will probably not enjoy her style of storytelling. 

Becky Chambers will always be one of my favorite authors and I will recommend her with all of my heart.
Was this review helpful?
The planet Gora is a desolate wasteland, notable only for its convenient location along several space routes to much more hospitable planets. It is here that Ouloo and her son Tupo run the Five-Hop One-Stop, one of the many rest stops built on Gora to cater to space travelers waiting for their turn to use one of the intergalactic tunnels that connect to other destinations. Ouloo is hosting three aliens from three different ships when a major accident in orbit prevents anybody from leaving the planet. Stuck with nothing to do but converse with the other guests and contemplate their individual reasons for traveling, all the inhabitants at the Five-Hop One-Stop are forced to take some time to evaluate their lives and where they’ll go from here.

I have never regretted reading a Becky Chambers book (a streak that continues with THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN). Most of the sci-fi I read is high-stakes, with giant battles or intergalactic politics. Almost none of that can be found in the WAYFARERS series, something I find utterly refreshing. I once saw the series referred to as “domestic sci-fi,” and I find it a perfect description. These are characters just going through their ordinary, daily lives, facing problems that are mostly personal. It’s lovely and cozy, heightened by the pure creativity of Becky Chamber’s sci-fi universe.

That creativity has always been one of my favorite parts of the WAYFARERS series, and it is on full display in THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN. There is not a single human amongst the five main characters of the book. Instead we have four different alien types, all with different cultures, body types, and ways of processing sensory inputs. Ouloo, who runs the rest stop, tries her best to create accommodations that won’t be grating or uncomfortable for any one species. That means using subdued colors in the building paint, since Aeluons communicate in color and view bright colors as shouting. It means avoiding certain scents and making sure that every species’ dietary restrictions are considered, as a certain kind of flour might be perfectly normal for one species and a deathly allergen to another. As someone who adores world-building in both sci-fi and fantasy and is fascinated about reading about cultures other than my own, the WAYFARERS book always scratches a very particular itch.

I had a lovely time with the story and would happily recommend it to others. While it didn’t leave me with heightened emotions or contain a mind-blowing twist, THAT’S OKAY. We need quiet sci-fi in our lives, just as much as we need stories with galaxy-level stakes. While there’s nothing earth-shattering in the story, THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN is a wonderful escape from our ordinary Earth lives, and that’s plenty enough reason to read it for me.
Was this review helpful?
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
(Wayfarers #4)
by Becky Chambers

This is a brilliant and well thought out book! It's a book I requested from the publisher and NetGalley and the review is my own opinion. Thanks so much for letting me read this wonderful book!

Chambers has a way of creating characters that are so extremely different from each other from their looks, physical traits, background, politics, worlds, upbringing, society norms, and well, everything about them. But at the same time Chambers makes them so similar and relatable.

This is about a Way Station of sorts with a variety of species each on a different mission of their own. They stop for fuel and rest but are then forced to stay due to unforeseen circumstances. There is no "bad guys" in this story. It's a group of characters stranded together with the hostess and her inquisitive son at the station.

During the time they are there, the strangers change. The firm beliefs they held and why they hold said beliefs emerge. Things aren't as they always seem. We as the reader could learn from this. The complete strangers slowly change and it becomes a heartwarming story especially when one of them almost dies.

This is a feel good story with lots of heart, humor, and lessons for all, regardless of species, lol! Recommend this book highly!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you for a copy of this book Harper Voyager, I really enjoyed it.
I love the Wayfarers universe and it was a great pleasure to step back in and see more of the expanding world. I was glad a 'known' secondary character was in this one, and it was nice to find out a whole lot more of her background and actions. And it was also a pleasure to meet new races and new faces. I enjoyed every minute and wanted the book to be so much longer!
Was this review helpful?
I finished this book and sat for a while, just smiling and thinking about it. It made me happy, made me hope, and made me wish I could be stranded at the Five-Hop One-Stop, visit Tupo's museum, and eat some of those cakes. What a marvelous book.

Gora is a rock that is strategically sited near a wormhole, which can transport ships light-years away in the blink of an eye. That makes Gora a good stopping place for spacers who want a break from their ship while they are waiting their turn for the wormhole. An unusual equipment failure results in the wormhole being closed to traffic, stranding ships and their occupants. All communications are shut down.

Several of these stranded travelers end up at the Five Hop One-Stop on Gora, which is run by Oolu and Tupo, her young child. The Five Hop One-Stop is like a small truck stop/motel/restaurant - it offers fuel, supplies, lodging, luxurious baths, and a variety of good food to its guests. Oolu (the proprietor) and her child Tupo are Laru, four-footed marsupials with very long necks, and curly fur.

Their stranded guests include Roveg (an exiled artist who resembles a centipede), Pei (a soldier whose people communicate in colors), and Speaker (a tiny sloth-like person whose home planet had a methane atmosphere). Pei and Roveg have places to be and are running out of time. Speaker is anxious about her sister, who is still marooned on their ship. These five people stranded together get to know themselves and each other better, which leads to some surprises.

It is the first book in the 5 book series I'd read, but I didn't find myself lost. I recommend this book to everyone.
Was this review helpful?
At this point, the last book.in the Wayfarers series, if you know, you know. Nothing much happens, just a handful of aliens trapped for a few days on a boring planet that's mostly a galactic gas station, and the friends (and children) they made along the way.

There is this one section where the (all non-human) characters discuss humans and their weird obsession with cheese, and how it's made, and how they eat it, it is hilarious.

I'm looking forward to what Becky Chambers does next but I'll be sad to never visit her creative, found-families, literal universe again.
Was this review helpful?