Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I’ve been in love with the world of the wayfarers for a long time now, and Becky Chambers never dissapoints. Just like the others this book provided a great kind of heartwarming optimism in a beautiful, colorful world. I especially loved the lack of humans in this book, it just made everything that much more creative and fun. Overall this book made me smile and I’m happy to have read it.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this! Did it feel like a series finale? No, but I think it’s because it’s a series of standalones. I liked the characters a lot, but it could’ve used a bigger plot to make the book feel like a series ender.
Was this review helpful?
THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN - BECKY CHAMBERS

When a technological global failure halts all coming and going from a rest-stop planet, five strangers of a variety of species have to eke out the disaster together at the Five-Hop One-Stop, a "bed and breakfast" whose host is just trying to make it be the best it can possibly be. Together, they must wait, until normalcy is restored, while trying to navigate and learn about each other as well as managing their personal challenges and stresses. 

I have loved everything that I've read from Becky Chambers. There is no one comparable in terms of writing beautiful character-driven stories. And then putting these characters and their relationships in the foreground of a galactic world filled with a myriad of challenges including interspecies dynamics, politics, and worlds. the stories are narrow, but also somehow incredibly vast at the same time.

This slice-of-life story, features aliens of different types and challenges and personal troubles that come from being who they are. They find themselves together, coming with personal baggage, and end up creating a bond. While this bond may be ephemeral, it's touches the heart. The work of putting aside preconceived expectations of people and learning to trust one another is highlighted in this book. As well as how sometimes, you just need someone to talk to and to listen or just sit and spend the time with you, no matter how different they might be.

I devoured this book. I loved everyone, their troubles big and small, their interactions. What a perfect end to the Wayfarers series. Highly highly recommend that everyone pick this up. Especially if you love character-driven stories and aliens!

Thank you so much to @avonbooks and @harpervoyagerus and @netgalley for providing me with the E-ARC.
Was this review helpful?
So I had no idea this was THE END of the Wayfarers series until I got to the acknowledgments and that makes the book so much more bittersweet. This is probably the... Softest book in the series. No one is running for their lives, there's no action. What it is is people of four different species trapped in one place together, finding common ground.

Physiologically, our main characters are so different, and they come from different backgrounds. Roveg from the people who have all but isolated themselves from the rest of the galaxy. Pei whose people are fairly ubiquitous but retain a deep sense of tradition - particularly surrounding child rearing. Speaker, whose people have no home after their planet was destroyed in a long-ago war but were never given leave to settle a new one because their physiology and needs are antithetical to other sapient species. And Ouloo and Tupo who have built their home in a world where people only ever visit but they get to see all kinds.

As always with a Wayfarers book, we dig deep into various species' cultures and biases. In this case, we use a child's curiosity as the catalyst for learning about these species and their interactions with each other. Chambers is so good at weaving in frank conversations about social justice, equality, bias, difference in cultural backgrounds and their effect on things like politics/war/economy. But also always finding common ground, even when characters can't wholly agree. And we get to see how these conversations have lasting impacts on our characters, beyond the mere scope of the book.

TL;DR If you haven't read the Wayfarers series yet, please do so.
Was this review helpful?
📚 To be completely honest, I don't think it's possible for me to write any kind of real review for a Becky Chambers Wayfarers book. I just love them too much and wind up hugging the book while making heart eyes.
📚 This one is even more of a character study than the previous books in the series, with several characters (the only one we'd met previously is Pei) who are essentially quarantining at a truck stop for the entirety of the book. And yet, I couldn't put it down. I was so engrossed in seeing how these disparate sentients - some from enemy species - had to work and live together for a time.
📚 I just love how Chambers creates these wildly inventive alien species and then is able to explore the essence of humanity through them.
📚 I'd happily read any book set anywhere in this universe. I'm sad to be leaving it, but looking forward to Chambers' new series debuting later this year.
Was this review helpful?
I don't really know what I expected when I started The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet a couple of years ago, probably some fast-paced sci-fi with loads of action. Instead I read about characters and their everyday life and I instantly fell in love with them. All four books are character-driven rather then plot-driven and I actually never thought I would enjoy that so much. Becky Chambers is now one of my favorite authors because of how she describes different characters, species and cultures. It all feels so real! 
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is of course no exception. The story takes place on the planet Gora were ships stop when traveling between wormholes. One of the places you can get fuel is at the Five-Hop One-Stop which is owned by two aliens, a mother and her child. Three unlucky aliens visit the Five-Hop One-Stop when a technological failure causes all trafic to and from Gora to cease. With all communication down the visitors and the hosts must cope with the situation and each other as best as they can. The book starts with introducing the different characters before they get stuck on Gora. While waiting for the failure to be solved these five aliens start to interact with each other, mostly thanks to the host. 
The clash between different species and cultures was really fascinating to read about. Sadly I found the first half of the book a bit slow but I liked the second half a lot.. While I really liked the book it's not one of my favorites in the series but I still enjoyed myself immensely like I always do with Becky Chambers books.
Was this review helpful?
I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley and Harper Voyager in exchange for a honest review. 

Whew! When I received this book, I was so excited and yet so sad at the same time! I couldn't wait to return to the Wayfarer universe but I am so sad this will be the last time. As always Becky Chambers has done the impossible and created a masterpiece of character driven science fiction. Like all of the Wayfarer novels Chambers uses her diverse cast of dynamic characters to explore real life issues we face every day.  Xenophobia, sexism, the unfair burdens we place on ourselves, inherent biases, gender construction and the self-fulfilling prophecy of institutional racism are all addressed matter-of-factly in relatable scenarios with no preaching or virtue signalling. As with most of Chambers books, this is story is made of a series of small vignettes that tie together to advance an over arching slow burning plot. I know some people find this maddening, but I love it so much. Science fiction is often accused of allowing characterizations to suffer in service of the plot but Chambers is a master at doing both.  Unlike the other Wayfarer books, in Galaxy humans are not centered in the narrative, in fact only one human makes a (very) small cameo but we still get to check in on characters we know and love. I am also absolutely loving getting to know Pei better and watching her finally come to terms with her relationship with Ashby. The other characters like Ouloo, Speaker and Roveg are also fully drawn and the experiences, cultures and ingrained biases of their respective species are fully explored through their respective POV chapters. I do wish Tupo had been given a POV chapter or a epilogue, it would have been fascinating to see Chambers explore a childhood free of gender assumption. Also, given the interconnected nature of the Wayfarer universe and the various timelines, I had to double check and see if Tupo turned out to be Kit's Laru friend from University in Record of a Space Born Few. Unfortunately xe was not, but I would not have put it past Chambers to make such a wonderful, subtle connection!
Was this review helpful?
While the little planet of Gora is little more than a glorified rock floating in space, it has the distinction of sitting along multiple interstellar traffic lanes, making it a useful stop for travelers waiting their turn to enter the wormholes that allow the Galactic Commons to stay connected across the vastness of space. The Five-Hop One-Stop is something of a truck stop on Gora, allowing travelers a chance to get out of their ships, stretch their legs, and partake of the hospitality offered by the Five-Hop’s proprietor– a mother and her usually helpful child. But when a freak accident halts both incoming and outgoing traffic, a group of travelers must make the best of their situation. An exiled artist with an important appointment to make, a cargo captain at a crossroads, and a mysterious figure doing her best to help a people on the edge all find themselves with the time and space to consider where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what their chance meetings could mean for their futures.

Like other cultural institutions, the combined genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) has seen its share of fragmentation over the past thirty years, as the internet allows people to delve ever deeper into specific niches and aesthetics. The sub-genres of Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Weird West, New Weird, and a host of others have sprung up in recent years, but the one that’s gotten the most attention is Grimdark, a subgenre loosely defined by the appearance of morally gray characters, violence, gritty realism, an overall tone of darkness, and the feeling that everything is terrible and there will probably be no happy ending. For anyone. And thanks to such television shows as Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, or The Expanse, and films like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), this particular subgenre has received heaps of praise and money.

But while many SFF fans embrace the gritty reality of Grimdark, others seek something more hopeful– and thus we have the subgenres of Solarpunk and Hopepunk, which don’t see the world as a grim and hopeless place where good people die first. Instead, they seek a way to find a way forward– together. It’s not a futile denial of reality and the grim future humanity faces, but an acknowledgement that being selfless and caring about other people takes strength, and in an environment that often feels like it’s ‘every man for himself’, putting others’ needs above one’s own is almost a radical act.

Enter Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series, which nestles snugly into the heart of Hopepunk with its disparate alien cultures all trying to get along in the vast Galactic Common, where people are doing their best but don’t always manage it, because even a government that is trying to work for the common good doesn’t always make the right decisions in a timely fashion– or at all. But this doesn’t mean that individuals throw their hands (or tentacles) up in despair and give up, because that would be counterproductive and not help anyone. Chambers’s characters might be up against centuries of cultural taboo, GC law, or familial problems, but they’re not about to roll over and die. Not when there’s something they can do to make things better.

Some critics have disdained the Wayfarers series for its fluffiness, others for the lack of a plot in its four installments. But many readers have embraced the found families within the pages and found comfort in the fact that, no matter what happens between the first page and the last, there will be some sort of a happy ending, even if it’s not the one they expect. So it is for The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, the fourth and final book of this Hugo-Award winning series (Hugo Award for Best Series, 2019). The accident that grounds the disparate travelers at the Five-Hop is less an inciting incident and more of a background element; it’s just the thing that prevents the travelers from leaving on time, rather than a disaster they have to struggle against to survive. There are no great mysteries to unravel, no dark pasts any of the characters are running from, no villain they have to find before bodies start piling up. The characters endure nothing more odious than boredom and anxiety, which they cope with by talking to each other and doing their best to learn about each others’ cultures and particular ways of life. And even if they don’t agree on the fundamentals of existence, at least they have taken the time to learn about each other, and how to live with one another. It’s a message of hope and understanding that has proven to be a comforting balm for many readers facing unsettling times.

The final installment of the Wayfarers series is a worthy successor to the popular first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and fulfills the promises of its Hopepunk subgenre. By portraying characters who actively seek to understand and look out for each other, Chambers shows how in this grim world of ours, simply being kind to our fellow beings can be a radical act.

-----

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion.
Was this review helpful?
A disaster strands three alien pilots on a backwater galactic truck stop, where they confront their differences. A quiet conclusion to the Wayfarers series.
Was this review helpful?
While I haven't read the whole series,but is not necessary to do so in order to fully enjoy this book. Stranded by an unexpected consequence due to scheduled maintenance, strangers from different cultures and species find strong, unanticipated connections to each other in this continuation of Becky Chambers Galactic Commons series.
Was this review helpful?
I received The Galaxy, and the Ground Within from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I have loved all three of the previous installments of the Wayfarer series. This one was no different. I think The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was more of a slice of life story that the previous three books and I actually really enjoyed that. 
The story follows five characters, Speaker, Pei, Roveg, and Ouloo and her child, Tupo. They are all different species. I had a bit of a hard time picturing what they each looked like. But I really liked each of their stories. I really enjoyed them spending time together and learning more about each other’s cultures and lives. I thought there were some really fascinating conversations. The dynamics of the characters and their lack of any kind of relationship is what made this book so good. Five strangers are stuck on Gora, their travel plans delayed when technology fails and communication and travel becomes impossible. So, they hunker down together. 
Ouloo and Tupo are the owners of the Five-Hop and they do their best to keep the guests happy. I really liked learning about the Laru species. I think Ouloo was my favorite of the characters. She just wants to create a space that will accommodate the many different species of the galaxy. I think the Five-Hop was a place I would absolutely love to visit. 
Then there’s Pei, who we sort of know from a previous book. She’s dating Ashby, who we know from a previous book. She’s dealing with a lot of emotions because she is keeping the secret of her romance with Ashby. Then, her shimmer starts. She needs to find a male of her species or she will likely never have another chance to have a child. But she’s not sure she even wants a child. 
Roveg’s story was an interesting one. He’s exiled from his homeworld. While he doesn’t regret what he did to get exiled, he does regret being away from his family. He has a very important appointment that he needs to make. And all of the delays on Gora might just cause him to miss this appointment. I really enjoyed learning about the Quelin culture from someone that doesn’t agree with most of it, but also still values bits and pieces. 
Then there’s Speaker. Speaker is an Akarak. This is an alien species that little is known of. I thought it was really interesting seeing Roveg take the time to learn about the Akarak history and develop a friendship. I think Speaker was a fascinating character. She’s outside of what we already know from this series and getting to learn about her species and their struggles was one of the more interesting aspects of this book. 
Overall, I really enjoyed the slice of life aspect of the book. I think the development of the relationships was really well done. I think it was a slow and enjoyable progression. As always, this book was diverse and unique with the pronouns of the different species and I really appreciate that aspect of this series. I thought this book was a compelling depiction of people with differing lives and differing opinions coming together in an unavoidable way. I would absolutely recommend this book and this series.
Was this review helpful?
This is the fourth, and apparently final, book in Becky Chambers' wonderful Wayfarers series. The series is set in the Galactic Commons, a federation of sapient species in the galaxy, of which humans are one of the newest and least important members. 

In this book, as in A Closed and Common Orbit, humans are more peripheral characters. The central characters are two Laru (a marsupial-like species), a Quelin (arthropod-like), an Akarak (a small, bird-like species that doesn't breathe oxygen, and uses a bipedal environment suit), and an Aeluon (bipedal, scaled, bald, and communicate through color patches on their cheeks--somewhat analogous to cephalopods, who also use the ability to change color in various ways to communicate.)

Gora is a world with no water, only a thin atmosphere, no life, no valuable resources--unremarkable except for being at the nexus of five wormholes that provide transport to far more interesting places. It's a busy hub, and the main, or rather only, industry on Gora is providing hospitality, supplies, and maintenance to the crews and ships passing through. Few visitors hang around long, until an accident among the communication satellites in orbit around Gora.

With no communications, and no one able to take off safely due to the debris cloud, everyone is stuck on planet until the debris cloud is cleaned up and communications are restored. At the Five-Hop One-Stop, run by the Laru Ouloo, with the sometimes dubious assistance of her child, Tupo, is suddenly hosting three guests who had expected to be gone within a few hours after arrival.

Roveg, the Quelin, is a vid designer, exiled from Quelin society, and with an urgent appointment to keep. Pei, the Aeluon, captains a cargo transport serving the Aeluon fleet in the Rosk war. She plans to meet up with her friend Ashby, aboard the Wayfarer, but that, too, has a time limit. She can't overstay her leave. Speaker, the Akarak, is traveling with her sister, Tracker--but Speaker is on the planet alone in her shuttle, with Tracker back on their ship. Akarak normally travel in family groups, but Speaker and Tracker don't really have other family.

The Akarak also aren't members of the Galactic Commons, for complicated reasons. They're on the fringes, scavenging and trading, and widely perceived as thieves and troublemakers. Speaker, though, only wants to help her people survive, and is proud of never stealing to do it.

There's not big plot here, built around adventure or battle or murder. It isn't even about the orbital disaster that has temporarily grounded them all. It's about these five people, three travelers and their two Laru hosts, getting to know each other, both as individuals and as members of different cultures with different customs, standards, and beliefs. All of them learn and grow and change, and make some major life choices as a result. As in all Chambers' work, the unifying theme is decency, kindness, and mutual respect, even, or perhaps especially, when it requires some uncomfortable reexamination of oneself and one's own assumptions.

If this is truly the end of the series, and to be clear, kudos to Chambers for ending it now if she feels she's said all she has to say in this setting, I'm going to miss it.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley. From the very first chapter of this book, I knew that I was going to love it. Becky Chambers has taken a cast of characters that are 100% not human, and made them so relatable, that I felt the urge to have a chat with what are essentially Space Llamas about the joys and frustrations of raising a teenager. I loved getting to know each character, and how their own cultures and species shaped their perspectives of the galaxy at large. They were each relatable in their own way, and were well-rounded and complex. 
 The book takes a classic trope (strangers trapped together by an emergency), placed it in a new location, and made it fresh and fun again. After a mishap with satellites exploding in the atmosphere, the characters were all stuck together at Ooli and Tupo's tiny travel center. The characters were forced to learn to respect each other's differences and experiences, and form friendships (or at least understandings) with people from completely opposite cultures. It sounds tropey, but the author is skilled enough that it is instead heart warming, gentle, and a joy to read. I highly recommend this conclusion to the Wayfarer series, and it is going straight to my keeper shelf.
Was this review helpful?
This is like a Sci Fi Breakfast Club with mostly adults. While being grounded due to technical difficulties with the wormholes a group of aliens are stranded at the Five-Hop One Stop. Specifically a hotel of sorts run by Ouloo and her offspring. As each work to learn about the other you can see the friendship or understanding develop. Tupo was one of my favorite characters. He was the only teenaged characte. When disaster strikes you see them put aside their differences and work together.
Was this review helpful?
The fourth, and sadly last, book in the Hugo award winning Wayfarer series. If you haven't read the others in the series, start. I'll wait. Light on action but heavy on character development, the pervious books in the series explored what it means to be human from the perspectives of a multispecies tunneling crew, an AI in a human shaped body, and a culture of refugees who built a communal society. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is unusual for the series because it continues to explore humanity and society without any human perspective characters. At the Five Hop One Stop, Laru Ooluo and her child Tupo welcome guests traveling from one tunnel to another, striving to make everyone comfortable. This day's guests are Quelin exile Roveg, Akarak Speaker, and Aeloun cargo captain Gaipei Tem Seri, known to series readers as Pei. An unexpected accident traps the guests at the Five Hop for several days, leading to deep conversation and intense friendships. This book, the the rest of the series, is about the journey and understanding others, no matter how different they are. The forced isolation speaks to the feelings of readers who have survived the Covid years. Highly recommended for literally anyone who cares more about characters than explosions. Keep your eyes peeled for the discussion of cheese and thanks me after you finish laughing.
Was this review helpful?
I've never really been a fan on character driven books over plot driven books. The only exception to that rule so far has been the Wayfarer series. This final installment was just as fantastic as the previous books in the series and I enjoyed myself immensely reading it. 

The Wayfarer series has become my comfort series and its makes me sad to know that there will be no more Wayfarer books. Chambers has a true gift for world building and while I usually like it simple, I have yet again made an exception for the Wayfarer Series. The characters are complex, likeable, and it's like getting a hug whenever I read them interacting with each other.

As with the previous books, there are the hints of social commentary which I find very enjoyable and thought provoking,

Just another pure masterpiece. I highly recommend this book (and the series as a whole)
Was this review helpful?
This is the latest book in the Wayfarer series, but could easily be read a standalone. It has many of the hallmarks of a classic Becky Chambers scifi story. This one offered an optimistic view of the future, filled with diverse, kooky aliens. Unfortunately, it was also rather lacking in plot. I find myself quite disconnected to the reading experience because I couldn't get lost in the universe. Other early reviewers clearly had a different experience so perhaps I am missing something, but I can only speak on mine.

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
Where to start? Honestly, I'm not sure that Becky Chambers can do any wrong with this series. I'm a huge fan, have suggested other titles in this series, and was hoping against hope that this title would live up to the others. It absolutely does. Well done! Will recommend for casual reading among friends and students.
Was this review helpful?
As usual with her books, I really liked the world building of the planet Gora and the Tren star system. So Gora is a sort of rest stop world. There are no indigineous life forms. It is inhabited by a variety of alien species (including some humans I’m pretty sure) who live in and run their own little habitat domes. This planet is located near a worm hole that travelers use to get from this part of the galaxy to other parts of the galaxy. Kind of like an airport hub. Travelers have to sign up for their transport times so that there aren’t any collisions within the worm hole - eee, which leads to somewhat lengthy layovers anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. So travelers will stay at these rest stops x bed and breakfasts hosted by the Gora inhabitants. 

This story takes place at one of these layover hotels hosted by a derpy llama alien and her child (these alien descriptions are going to be dumb on purpose - I actually love the character designs of the aliens. They each feel so unique and full of life). On this day they have 3 visiting ships. A silvery fish-like alien that speaks in colors that also has a voice box implant in order to converse with other aliens. A fancy blue lobster man who works as a virtual reality sim designer. And a pair of smol bird sloth sisters who use mechs to walk around the outside world.

It feels like a normal day until the sky starts falling. (chicken little insert?). Something went wrong with the satellite trajectories and they crashed into each other causing a massive planet wide disruption in communication. They are able to get the emergency channel in, but they can’t contact anyone off planet. We spend the rest of the story getting to know these characters and seeing how different and similar they are to each other. Quite Wholesome. 

You might need to go on the Wayfarer wiki to refresh your memory of some or most of these alien species like I did, but it was not a big deal for me.

I liked the bit about how the bird sloths have never gotten to try a VR sim before because no one has made a mind map for their species yet. They are outsiders everywhere they go, due to some uuhhh imperialism related reasons and there’s not that many of them. So the VR sim makers never really thought to put them in their games. I think it highlights the importance of accessibility in video games - just because proportionally there’s not a lot of people who would benefit from accessibility options in games does not mean it’s not worthwhile to put in that work. 

There were parts in this book where I felt that the wholesomeness was being laid on a bit thick, but like a nice thick blanket. So, sometimes kinda cheesy, but not over the top. 

4 out of 5 stars
Was this review helpful?
Let's put the bottom line right up top: If you like the Wayfarers series, you'll like this latest entry (the last entry) in which Becky Chambers has clearly grown as a writer, both in areas of strength as well as weakness. But if you had problems with some aspects of her approach to storytelling in the past, you will continue to have the same problems, despite her improvement.

Maybe you're even like me, with one foot on both sides of the line -- "Her work has been alternatively criticized and praised for the deliberate, character-driven pacing and lack of the propulsive plots," is how one reviewer summarized it, and I for one feel the urge to simultaneously praise and criticize her work along those lines.

On one hand, I find it hard to resist the best qualities Chambers has to offer -- breezy, optimistic, inclusive character-driven stories with relevant messages for contemporary readers. One the other hand, I find it difficult to quell my frustration at the dearth of story arc for overly archetypical characters, occasionally tedious dialogue about inane subjects, and the gratuitously naive simplicity in dealing with complex contemporary issues.

But as I say, Chambers has improved -- there is some conflict, some drama, some subtlety to her characters' development. These may be five characters in search of a plot, but there is a modicum of narrative momentum, throwing them together artificially so that they have to reveal themselves to each other (and thus to us, and to themselves). There is another artificial circumstance that forces a climax of sorts, which is still somewhat frustrating but a grand sight better than The Long Way.

A lot has already been made, and will increasingly be made, about the absence of human characters (other than a brief visit from an Exodan doctor and references to Wayfarer captain Ashby Santoso by his Aeluon paramour Pei, one of the five main characters). But of course, they're not really futuristic aliens who take the form of sentient lobsters, octopi, or large furry mammals. They're really us, in all of our diversity. And the message, delivered without the slightest pretense of subtlety, is that we'd be better off embracing diversity and inclusivity than continuing to war over our differences.

There are too many "one line fixes" (as Rob Lowe in Thank You For Smoking famously says when suggesting product placement of cigarettes in a sci-fi movie -- "Cigarettes in space? Wouldn't they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?" / "Easy fix. One line of dialogue: Thank God we created the, you know, whatever device.") But there are some good debates about our social and political divisions (even though they may be, as earlier stated, simplistic).

So for every positive, a negative. But where the series started at maybe 40-60, 35-65 positives to negatives, we're probably at 70-30, 75-25 in this book, more along the lines of a good literary novel that emphasizes character over plot, but in a decidedly science fiction setting. If it worked for you in her earlier books, this will work even better; if it didn't, it still won't.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Apologies if the review is a little too honest...
Was this review helpful?