Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

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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.
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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.
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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)
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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.
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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.
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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
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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...
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I loved this book. With no humans at all, this was the best book into the Wayfarer series for getting a look into the different alien civilizations in this universe. The story takes place as 3 travelers are all temporarily trapped in an isolated waystation. The real journey is in how they interact and learn from each other. 

Like all books in the series the world building is incredible, and the story incredible thoughtful. I loved every second of it.
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The fourth and, sadly, final book in the Wayfarers series. This book all takes place in what I thought of as a galactic truck stop called The Five-Hop One-Stop. A place to freshen up before going through transports to other parts of the galaxy. This place is run by Ouloo and her child Tupo. 

Stuff happens and everyone gets stuck on the space station. Speaker, a small creature who uses a robot suit to walk around, since she can only breathe methane, Roveg, a Quelin artist and food lover, and, Pei Digby's main Aeuleon squeeze.

What I have really loved about most of the Wayfarers novels is that plot takes a back seat to characterization. (This isn't a criticism. There is room in far flung space novels for stories that take place on a planet with beings talking to one another and learning from and about one another.) And, what awesome characters we have here! There's a lot going on from basic features of each species to interesting quirks for each character. We pick up so much in a small amount of time. This is wonderfully written and by the end of the first Day I can't wait to spend more time with these characters and learn even more about them. 

Having said that, there is a bit in this book where the tension is ratcheted up and it's not 100% clear which way the story is going to go. The tension was palpable through the writing, and it allowed for some characters to interact in brand new unexpected ways. 

I like that the relationship between each character is explored and it is shown how they can (and sometimes can't) learn from each other. 

I'm pretty bummed that this series is ending. I guess it is good that Chambers is ending it on such a high note. (Personally, I've loved each book of the series as different as each of them has been.) But, I feel like there is such potential for more stories. I want to know more about Dr. Miriyam. I want to hear what other adventures the crew of the Wayfarer get up to. I guess I'll have to wait to see what Chambers comes up with in the future and look forward to that, instead.
But, if the series has to end, this is a good send off. One of the things I really liked about all of these books is how positive and happy they are. This book is no exception, and a cherry is placed on top by some activities at the end of the book that I especially enjoyed. 

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book from Netgalley. This did not affect my review.
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+Extensive world-building
+Compelling characters you quickly bond with
+Thought-provoking plot
+Great balance of character growth, world building, and plot

This series (and all of Becky Chamber's, to be honest) has become my comfort series. Every time I read these books, it's like being wrapped in a warm hug, even if the stories themselves are sometimes heartbreaking. This final installment has only further proven that, and I can't wait to read these books over and over again. I'm heartbroken I won't get another story in this world, but at the same time, I've loved the other works Chambers has written as well (To Be Taught, If Fortunate and the Psalm for the Wild Built), and can't wait to see what she writes next.

One of my favorite things throughout this series has been the universe that the stories are set in. Chambers has always done a fantastic job of creating worlds and cultures that feel entirely real, while also making them inclusive and realistic. Her world-building has become what I compare other sci-fis too, as to me it's just a perfect example of how to create a deep, fascinating setting for a sci-fi story to take place in. The diversity that exists between the different cultures and how they perceive the world around them (both on a cultural level, such as with gender and relationships, but also on a physical level, like communicating through colors instead of sound) is one of my favorite parts of the universe this series takes place in. I also love that each new book seems to take a different approach and angle to this universe, and we aren't just getting the human perspective of this vast world. We get to see the world through the lens of different species, and it's always really cool to see how that changes a particular story. This book is a perfect example of that, since our point of view characters are all from a different species and therefore have an entirely different way of seeing and interacting with the world.

Chambers also always really shines when it comes to the characters. Every story of hers has, without fail, ensured I was attached to the POV characters (and often side characters), within the first few chapters. The level of care that seems to echo through every layer of their development is visible in every interaction between Chambers' characters, and in their thoughts as they process certain events. You quickly grow to love these characters, to understand them. I loved the cast we got to see in this book, and it hurt finishing the story knowing that I wasn't ever going to see them again. Another important aspect, related to characters, was the relationships between them, and this part was especially interesting in this installment, as the main POV characters all started off as strangers. It meant we both got to see how characters viewed themselves and how they viewed each other, which varied greatly depending on the beliefs of individuals characters and the prejudices they had going into this situation. It led to discussions between these characters that were sometimes confrontational, but even in those arguments, Chambers did a good job of not painting any single character as a 'bad' one. This allowed readers to see the many shades of the same color, and that no specific character was right.

We need more hopeful stories like Chambers' in this world, and I love how full and happy I feel whenever I finish another one of her stories. There's just something so compelling and fulfilling about a story like this, one that isn't necessarily about packing as much action and excitement as possible into 400 pages, but instead focuses more on lived experience, interactions across cultures, and exploring what it means to just be. I couldn't recommend this book, and the Wayfarers series, enough. I'll be (impatiently) waiting to see what Becky Chambers writes next!
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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the fourth and final book in the Wayfarer’s series and it was just perfect. It’s so hard to pick a favorite in this series because they are all so uniquely wonderful but this one is definitely near the top of the list. If you haven’t read any Becky Chambers, GET ON IT. You are seriously missing out on some of the best science fiction ever written. This is also one of my favorite book covers maybe ever.
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I haven't read all of them, but it seems like every book in the series operates as a stand alone. Even then, before this installation of the Wayfarers Series, I read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet to get a sense of Chambers' universe. It had been on my Kindle for quite awhile, and I'm not sure why I never got to it. It was silly to have waited this long, because I loved it!

Yet it didn't prepare me for how much I would LOVE this book. As a reader, I love how well-rounded all her characters are by the end, with small snippets into their past lives scattered throughout the novel. As a writer, I can't comprehend how she comes up with these societies so incredibly different from each other and from the ones on our planet. Since this is a written work, as opposed to a televised one like Star Trek, we are instantly privy to the character's interior thoughts, instead of hearing them through the words characters say.

Most of the reading I've been doing recently boils down to a main character who is different from those surrounding them, which usually also includes some special power that saves or changes the world. I don't want to knock that kind of story, but I really needed one like this. There is not one main character with special abilities, but instead a diverse cast who together have the special powers (just like Speaker suggested, btw). The Wayfarer's universe reminds me of Star Wars, in the sense of a bunch of weirdos thrust together who have to work together for a common goal.

The novel is set on a barren planet only habited as it became useful as a space port stopover. This setting means that all the characters are outsiders, and there isn't a dominant species. Additionally, there's only one human in the story, and she's a minor character, usually only referred to as The Human. Thus the reader is in the same boat as all the other characters meeting and interacting with new species, and overcoming biases. There are several times in the book where one character tries to explain a concept from their culture to another, who don't have the words (or colors) for it. This detail really stood out to me.

OK, now to gush. Spoilers ahead. (view spoiler)

After I finished this book, I just lay on my couch for awhile letting all the warm feelings it gave me swirl around. I still haven't started another since, because I'm not quite ready. I think the only solution is to go back and read A Closed and Common Orbit and Record of a Spaceborn Few!

ARC provided Tor through NetGalley <3
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No doubt this is my favorite book in the Wayfarer's series penned by Becky Chambers. While all of the three previous entries were terrific, this one had me talking about it with friends even before I finished.

Chambers excels at character-driven plotlines. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is no exception. The plot device of having very different species thrown together for an extended time is not a new one. What Chambers does with this is.

Set on a barren planet, which is only populated because of its proximity to four wormholes, means that there's really nothing special about the place overall. The majority of the story takes place at the dome of one of the planet's residents, whose purpose is established early: she desires the comfort of her short-term guests.

The other characters are a selection of alien species from Chambers other novels. While she has always made us part of her character's thinking and perspective, we are treated to the curiosity and awkwardness of other species interacting with each other as well.

There are no blazing gun fights, no huge space battles, and no violence of any type. This is a few days of people being people, with their own motivations, concerns and worries, dealing with the same situation together.

Interestingly, only one human inhabits this story and almost at the end. We aren't spoiled with our own species fallabilities and foibles -- humans are just some other race in this galactic community.

I've read many books in which I've come to learn and care about the characters -- alien and otherwise. This book is special, however. It is clear that Chambers not only wants us to know these characters but to come to care about them as well. 

A fantastic conclusion to an excellent quartet of books! I highly recommend it for its treatment of "other" in a unique and empathetic way.
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Becky’s books always inspire a fascinating sense of thoughtfulness and displacement and familiarity at once, and this one does not disappoint. Somehow, in the context of a pandemic and social distancing and civil unrest and cabin fever, reading about being forced to reflect on what you actually want (while sheltering in place during an unprecedented disaster on a little rest stop of a planet) is an incredible flavor I can recognize on my tongue and have no idea how to describe.

Reader, I cried. And that, from me, is the mark of a good book.
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Becky Chambers writes in the afterword that this is the end of the Wayfarers series. Since the other novels didn’t follow the same characters but shone the spotlight on those who had been in the background, I was hoping that it would last forever. This universe is so rich and immersive that I would have kept reading for eternity. After focusing on humans in the last volume, this story is about other alien species thrown together by a freak accident. Nothing big really happens, it’s an intimate look into the characters, their history and quirks as they slowly bond. It is surprising how much I cared about them all, worried about them and wanted to learn more. Their voices are so distinctive that I started thinking “that is so Roveg” like he was my buddy. Considering said Roveg is a giant bug, it’s a big accomplishment. But the author’s imagination is not limited to what’s possible on Earth. I’ve read non-fiction books by astrobiologists and they complain how aliens in pop culture seem to have “human” traits as in eyes and legs. Chambers’ characters are truly alien. Everything, from their reproductive systems, their diets and politics is very well thought out. The author has a real gift and I’m looking forward to what comes next. 
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/ HarperCollins Publishers!
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The Galaxy and the Ground Within takes what I've loved about the series and expands it further. Chambers delivers a book full of heart. Multiple POV, The Galaxy and the Ground Within is emotional from start to finish. Throughout we not only see their stories unravel, their vulnerabilities, anf fears are revealed to us. We are able to both relate to their feelings of love, difficult decisions, and rage while also seeing their differences. They all need to learn to speak to each other, to fill these gaps between them - holes of knowledge and misunderstanding.

One of my obsessions are non-humanoid aliens and Chambers always delivers! The Galaxy and the Ground Within feels almost like a slice of life. Yes there's a temporary grounding, but it's not a war zone and their movements and conversations, feel very much like the dance of getting to know each other. To participate in cultural sharing and discussion - despite differences of opinions and histories of injustices. The Galaxy and the Ground Within feels joyful and expansive. Rich and warm, bringing both a universality to the experience, while also acknowledging the differences and injustice.
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Becky Chambers has a gift that I really can't describe - while I didn't find this installment to be quite as good as some of the previous ones, it still has all the love and enthusiasm and weirdness that the other 3 books showed in spades!

This is the sweet story of a mother and child who run a sort of welcome house/inn/rest stop for travelers in a weird order of space, and what happens when they and three travelers are stranded for 5 days due to a massive equipment failure/delay. All the characters are outsiders in their own cultures for one reason or another, and they find kinship and help as they navigate turning points in their lives.

I liked this book a lot, even if I didn't love it. It was fun to get to know Pei from her own perspective, and I really enjoyed Tupo and Roveg in particular. I liked the inter-species interactions, which we have seen some of before. I will say that I especially loved the way that the setting was set up - I could totally picture the mish-mash of a place that was set up to please everyone and ended up feeling unsettling for anyone.

One of the things I have loved about this series is the way that characters appear in other books, but the focus shifts constantly, and you get so many sides to the world. However, that is sometimes frustrating because when you find a character you really LOVE, you don't get to see that journey through to a satisfying end. Some of these characters were exquisite and compelling and some were less so, which meant I loved parts of this book (the natural history museum was hilarious and so entertaining), but found others less interesting.

However, I will read anything Becky Chambers writes, and I still really enjoyed this tale - I highly recommend these books for anyone who likes feel good science fiction, and enjoys world building and funny characters.
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Perhaps some won't like 'The Galaxy, and the Ground Within' on the basis of "not enough happens"-- I've certainly seen similar criticism of the other GC books. I loved it for this, though. 

Good sci fi always has something to say (I mean, any good book has something to say, but mediocre sci fi and fantasy seem to think being cool is good enough). Building a future society out of whole cloth, extrapolated from the current state of things, gives you a lot of room to comment on stuff-- but most of the time, doing so means traversing the stars to see the different aspects of a galactic civilization. 

Becky Chambers' magic trick is somehow bringing a whole universe into view while standing almost completely still. The plot of this one is almost entirely contained in a literal bubble, and all of the things the characters care about are somewhere between 'in orbit, inaccessible' and 'lightyears away'-- but somehow, they carry whole swaths of the universe into the bubble with them. Different ways of life, political tensions, a war, and more all come to the surface as three aliens just, like, do their best to hang out with their gracious hosts. And then, finally, at the end of the book, the connections they made deflect some of their paths, just a little bit maybe, but enough it feels (to me at least) like a plot.

To me, this says (as have Chambers' other books), "the small things you do matter. Life is all of the moments, not just the dramatic ones." And so yes, we get exploration of space politics and inter-species tensions, but we also just get moments in the lives of some really vivid people with problems more relatable than you might expect, at first, considering the sloth/orangutan-ish host might be the most human-like of the characters. 

Looking forward to whatever Chambers has coming next, even if it won't have Aeluons.
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Science fiction, at its best, makes us think about our own lives and experiences, and the way we move through the world. In The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, Becky Chambers manages to have a universe that is full of truly alien aliens, while still leaning heavily into this sci-fi tradition — their problems, be they personal, political, even medical, feel so relevant to ours. Adoption and colonialism. Disability and gender, music, and love. Xenophobia, and feeling adrift in a universe that doesn't seem to have room for you. Seeing yourself reflected in someone who is different from you in every way, yet seems to understand you better than the people you grew up with.

Chambers touches on these big topics without ever being preachy, and without making her characters simply into mouthpieces for her own political beliefs. Each character is fully fleshed out, with cultural heritages that feel so fully realized that one might be forgiven for forgetting these alien cultures are entirely made up. The stakes of this book are in some ways very small -- the cast is made up of a handful of people, and the whole book takes place in one place in just a few days. But in a bigger sense, this book is truly universal, looking thoughtfully at important, nuanced topics without ever pretending to have a perfect answer. This book is a surefire hit with any fans of the Wayfarers series, and science fiction lovers more generally.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the advance review copy!
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Becky Chambers has done it again. The fourth in her Wayfarers series, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, is another masterpiece. This lovely book tells the story of an unlikely assortment of folks who become stranded at what is essentially an intergalactic truck stop. With little contact with the outside world and no real timeline as to when they will be able to leave, the five of them have to get by as best they can among strangers, each one more alien than the next.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a tiny book. It’s scale is minuscule — there are five characters, one small space, the span of a few days. But it is also a story of epic proportions, a story that in a relatively few number of pages manages to capture so much. Chambers touches on big themes, from colonialism to ableism, parenting and genocide, and what it means to be truly at home. This is a must read for fans of the Chambers' other work, and for science fiction lovers in general.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the ARC!
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