Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

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Member Reviews

Becky Chambers has done it again! I'm so, so happy that I got approved for this ARC. This new (and sadly, last) installment of the Wayfarers series hearkens back to the first book in the series A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which was unquestionably the best one. Becky Chambers is the master of character-driven stories. You want to know how to write character-driven stories? Read Becky Chambers. I'm not sure that I could even come close to picking a favorite character.  

I. Love. This. World. The worldbuilding is excellent, imo. I want to live in this universe. 

 Thank you to Becky Chambers, the publisher, and Netgalley for a copy of this ARC. I'm simply thrilled to read it!
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I'm not sure I can review this book without actual yelling, like standing on a rooftop and throwing this series at everyone. In the acknowledgments, Chambers addresses how this series changed her life, and she should know (I hope she does) how many lives she's touched. Gushing aside, I have nothing but praise for the fourth and final installment of the Wayfarers series. This review is going to be boring. I'm not sorry.

So yeah, I loved everything about this book, especially since it employed one of my all-time favorite tropes as its main narrative device: a group of strangers trapped in one location for an indeterminate length of time who must learn to get along and survive, all whilst getting to know each other. Cue juicy character interactions and misunderstandings and fun and drama. Chambers yet again manages to tells the most intimately human of stories without a single human in sight. A quiet, brutally hopepunk science fiction tour de force.

Ugh. Someone take this review away from me.

Endless thank yous to the publisher and net galley for granting me access to this title early. I will be shouting ALL CAPS about it in my socials, and often.
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Another great addition to Becky Chambers' galaxy. The usual (but NEVER boring or predictable) thoughtfulness and creativity I expect from the author.
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What's it about? 
Gora is a simple, plain little planet. No air, no native life, just some rocks.  But! Location, location, location.  Gora is conveniently positioned between main wormhole thoroughfares for ships traveling through space (and time). What better business for Gora than a space age truck stop? The Five-Hop is run by its owner Ouloo and her teenage offspring, Tupo, who work very hard at providing each species that stops in with a grade A experience. Due to a technology malfunction, this is the story of three travelers who get stuck planet side with their hosts while repairs are being made. Pei has returned and is on her way to meet Ashby for a rendezvous and dealing with her, well, she'd say her "bullshit".  Speaker is new to the "Wayfarers" species whose kin is rare and wide spread who is just trying to get back to her twin sister high above them in their ship.  And Roveg, the classiest hard shelled, many legged exiled creature you will ever meet who is on his way to his home planet for the first time in many years

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was wondering how Becky Chambers was going to make me love a story set in a intergalactic truck stop.  And then I remember that this was Becky Chambers, queen of character development, inclusivity, and quirky found families.  "The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet" and it's other two companion novels in the "Wayfarers" series have been among my favorite books of all time, and "The Galaxy, and the Ground Within" is no exception. This is a book for sci-fi, history, art, geology, and sociology nerds everywhere. 
These books, no matter how info heavy, never feel overwhelming.  All the information about the planets, locations, characters, ships comes to the reader in such an organic way that you don't even realize that you are learning until you're knee deep in the story and can recognize what species you're interacting with based on on how many legs you've been told they have.  Honestly, this book could have had 300 different species and you would confidently know what each of them look like and sound like.  Becky Chambers is a master of giving each character their own voice and their own space to grow.  And while you might be brought into a story already in progress, you never feel lost.  

This book is set entirely planet side which is something new for the series. You learn a lot about the geology and the creation of the planet in that very fun very Becky Chambers narrative way.  Since there is no "human" main character in this book, I was concerned that I would have a hard time relating to anyone, but that proved to not be the case.  Instead of relating to the most human or humanoid character as I had in the previous books, I found myself relating to all of these "alien" characters in some small way. I am sure that was the intention while this book was being written, but I can say with confidence that it succeeded.  

Speaking of the characters, this book had the most incredibly diverse cast I think I have ever read.  And not just because they are all "aliens". Using xyr pronouns for a developing child in this book was a very clever and inclusive way to bring up the topic of gender.  Becky Chambers has never shied away from diversity in her characters sexually or otherwise.  But, bringing up the topic of gender in such a seamless way was honestly beautiful to read.  

Found family plot lines is truly where these books cannot be matched. While being about found family and characters, this was also a great look at immigration and loving thy neighbor no matter how different from you they might be.

If you are looking for a plot heavy action packed space odyssey, you're in the wrong place.  However, if you are looking for characters you can relate to no matter how alien they are to you, friendship, diversity, and acceptance you're in luck.

This book did have it's slow moments, but they still felt necessary and important to the story.  There is not one single line of this book that you want to skim for fear of missing out on a small nugget of the story.  

I am saddened by the end of the "Wayfarers" series as I still have a few unanswered questions about some of my favorite characters (looking at you Jenks!) but I am excited to see what else Becky Chambers has up her sleeve.
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The author’s note at the end says the end of the series and I am so bummed!  This series is a gentle slice of life set of stories (even when things are going badly).  The author really excels in making this different settings and characters come to life and feel real.   I hate to finish one of these books and have to leave the world behind and they are so well written and quick to read the time I spend there is never long enough.  The four books all stand alone pretty well but I strongly recommend reading them all!
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Becky Chambers is balm for the soul.

This is the final Wayfarers book, and if you’ve read any of the previous ones, you have a good idea of what to expect here. If you haven’t, what you’re going to get isn’t a book with a ton of plot. This book is *all* about characters.

This time around, we have a few people at a highway rest stop when a major accident means the roads are closed and they’re stuck there for a few days. Just all space-y, because this is a sci fi story. They all have reasons to be anxious to be gone. They’ve all got schedules to keep, appointments to make, people they care about they are eager to see again. And they’re stuck waiting around, with no one for company but each other and the woman (along with her teenage son) who runs the place.

As A Closed and Common Orbit and A Record of a Spaceborn Few, we get a connection back to the crew of the Wayfarer in the first book without actually seeing any of them. In this case, one of the people stuck waiting is Ashby’s Aeluon girlfriend.

Interestingly, none of the people waiting are human. We get one human making a brief appearance, but otherwise this book is all aliens.

Pei is returning from the front lines of the war against the titular small, angry planet from the first book. She’s on her way to meet Ashby, and emotionally exhausted from the sneaking about required by her species’ taboo against interspecies relationships.

Roveg is a Quellin (Rosemary described them as lobster-centaurs), but has been exiled from his homeworld for not sharing their xenophobia. He’s returning to Quellin space to apply for a visitor’s permit, and is understandably eager and reluctant both to get on with his journey.

Speaker is an Akarak, a race forced to live a nomadic life and generally looked down on as thieves and pirates by the more respectable citizens of the Galactic Commons. Because of this distrust, Speaker isn’t comfortable interacting with anyone but her twin sister, and Speaker being stuck on the surface with no communications while her sister is in orbit (with the big accident and all) has her more than a little upset.

Ouloo who runs the rest stop wants everyone to feel comfortable and welcomed, and she is very determined in this regard.

Her son Tupo is a teenager who mostly wants to eat and ask endless questions.

They talk. They get to know one another. They share stresses and hopes and stories. There’s some drama that has me worried. And then the roads are cleared, they all move on (with heartfelt promises to stop at Ouloo’s again whenever they’re passing by) a bit wiser.

It is, as I said, balm for the soul. It comes out on April 20th.
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The fourth book in the Wayfarer series is sure to please fans of the other books. In contrast to the first three, this book does have a kind of central problem, so there is a bit more pulling readers through it. Also, in one notable instance, some sapients don’t respond correectly to each other, and everyone isn’t perfectly understanding—though of course, things are resolved in a model way. Those who have been put off by the model understanding displayed by all the characters will continue to feel frustrated, and there continues to be a large amount of exposition in the novel.
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<i>I received a free digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.</i>

I love space opera. The wide expanse of space, the galaxy-spanning civilizations, the small-level conflicts and the thrill of discovering the unknown. Space is infinite and unexplored and ripe for stories within that huge expanse of... stuff. 

Becky Chambers' Wayfarers Quartet has all the hallmarks of great space opera. Many of the tropes are there -- in Chambers' Galactic Commons universe, humanity is a small (and relatively new) part of a coalition of spacefaring races. There are friendly aliens and unfriendly ones. There is war and peace and love. There is a huge expanse of stars, many of them with planets populated by all kinds of sentient beings, and the faster-than-light means by which to travel between them. 

But whereas traditional space opera trains a macro lens over big ideas -- galactic conspiracies, multi-system wars, etc. -- Becky Chambers zooms in her lens to the micro level. Her stories are less about huge conspiracies and more about the small relationships between individuals. Chambers' books are noteworthy less for the things that happen than the relationships between the characters. There is drama and conflict, of course, but there is talking, and understanding, and a willingness to believe in the best about creatures very different than you. 

It is, in many ways, the opposite of space opera. There's no grimdark here -- this is kind, gentle, heartwarming galactic novels, and that's why I love these books so much.

Chambers' latest, and last, novel in the Galactic Commons universe, "The Galaxy and the Ground Within" turns her micro focus to the backwater planet of Gora. Basically the planetary equivalent of a truck stop, it's barren and empty, a planet free of any redeeming qualities except that it happens to be situated at a major intersection of hyperspace tunnels. Because of that, enterprising aliens of all kinds have set up domes that cater to weary travelers who may need supplies, or trade, or a meal, or a good night's sleep away from their ships. 

The Five-Hop One Stop is one of those places, a come-as-you-are haven for those passing through who might need something, even if they don't know what it is. Run by Laru proprietor Ouloo and her gender-neutral child Tupo, the Five-Hop becomes the refuge for four additional characters, all of vastly different races, when an accident strands them on Gora and shuts down all travel out of the system. 

This setting -- Breakfast Club meets the Mos Eisley cantina -- throws together vastly different characters, all with their own motivations, backgrounds, languages, appearances, and preconceived ideas about the other races stuck with them on that godforsaken rock. "Galaxy and the Ground Within" very quickly turns into a character drama as the various aliens, each of whom (barring Tupo) get their own POV chapters, navigate their surroundings and learn to know each other and understand one another over the course of the novel.

Most striking about this book is that none of the characters are human. All are aliens of some kind, unique and weird and interesting in their own way. Ouloo and Tupo are Laru, long-limbed and furry. Speaker is an Akarak, a solitary and misunderstood species within the GC. Roveg is a Quelin, multi-limbed and with an exoskeleton probably closer to a earth crustacean than anything mammalian. Only Pei is a familiar character, the Aeluon lover of human Ashby from the first book in the series. 

There's conflict, because of course there is. There are heartfelt conversations, because it's a Becky Chambers book. There's a crisis that eventually brings everyone together for a common good. There is not, however, always consensus, because life doesn't always work that way.

As a series, these books don't have an overarching narrative. They are connected more by setting and to a lesser degree characters who may have interacted with other characters from the other books. In that sense. these are books that can be read in any order, as their connections are more thematic. Some may view "The Galaxy and the Ground Within" as an anticlimactic ending to the series. 

But I get the sense that for Chambers, it was never about grand narratives -- it was about small stories in the settings of a vast galaxy. The four books of the Wayfarers Quartet tell four different small stories, connected in some ways, vastly different in other ways. "The Galaxy and the Ground Within" brings the stories of these alien main characters stranded on Gora to a satisfactory close, but leaves you knowing that these are mere snapshots of the lives of these characters. You end up caring deeply about all of them, even as they struggle to connect.

These aren't the only stories in this universe, and perhaps Chambers will return to the compelling GC universe again some day. If not, this book is one I will definitely return to when I need a dose of introspective, thoughtful and kind space opera.
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Another great character driven sf novel that is unfortunately the end of the series. I will miss Chambers exploration of what it means to be human/AI/alien. I loved Tupo in this story and his curiosity about everything around him.

I hope Becky Chambers changes her mind and continues the series!
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Ok, I haven't yet read A Closed and Common Orbit or Record of a Spaceborn Few but I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and when the opportunity to snag an eARC of this book popped up I ran with it. I think it's a beautiful & fitting end to the Wayfarers series (that leaves room for further chapters if the universe is ever revisited). Chambers writes the best character driven sci-fi I've ever encountered, and while this story is not hugely dramatic or suspenseful it is so very 'human'(or whatever the word for human is when all of the characters are aliens) in a way that absolutely sings. I loved watching these characters gently (and not so gently) getting to know each other and try to find connections, common ground. Some things I especially loved: (view spoiler) If you've never read any of Chambers' books I just can't recommend them highly enough, especially if your looking for some relatively low stress, extremely character driven sci-fi.
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Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this amazing book!

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a story about 3 characters who are stranded on a planet during what should have been a short stopover because of a technical failure in the satellites above the planet. These three characters, along with their host and her child, pass their time getting to know each other and end up learning about themselves in the process. At its core, this is a story about people forming relationships with other people, though none of the people involved are Human. It is a story of overcoming prejudice and finding ways to connect with people who are different from oneself, and it is also a story of making oneself vulnerable in order to form deeper relationships. It is completely a character-driven story, and it is beautiful in its simplicity. 

Becky Chambers does an incredible job of creating rich backstories for each of her characters, and her worldbuilding is never lacking. All the details are fleshed out, and I absolutely love the cultures that she creates on all of her worlds. I love the way the characters interact with each other and that the reader gets to see each character's inner self as well. Every book in this series is incredible, and also each book is different from the others. You don't need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one, though there are some small pieces that are enhanced from having read the others in the series. 

This is an incredible book, and I highly recommend it!
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I love everything about Becky Chambers writing. This story is so wholesome but without removing conflict or drama. She shows that you can disagree with people but still respect them. That its okay to have a basic respect for other peoples choices for their own bodies even if those choices aren't your choices. 

The Wayfarer series as a whole is loosely connected, there is at least one character from each novel that ties back to the first novel but we're exploring entirely different situations. These books can be read in any order any connections are basically just Easter eggs not major plot points.

I will give a warning that if you need a plot with set conflict points, this is not for you. The point of this series is the characters. It has a plot (4 alien species are stuck at a space truck stop for a few days) but the interactions between the characters is the story.

These stories are so sweet I'd recommend them for anyone but I especially want to share this joy with anyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. These books show you without any sort of conflict around sexuality or coming out.

Becky Chambers is an auto buy author for me and she's well on her way to being one of my all time favorite authors.
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On the planet Gora, which functions only as a rest stop at a busy transportation hub for intergalactic travelers, a mother and child run the Five-Hop One-Stop. The Five-Hop is a modest establishment, but Ouloo's mission in life is to make the place as welcoming as possible to any species that might want to land there during their layover. That day, Ouloo has three scheduled dockings: an Aeluon ship, a Quelin ship, and--most unusually--an Akarak ship. When a sudden technological failure knocks out ground-to-orbit communications and halts traffic, these strangers are granted a rare opportunity to get to know each other, confront their biases and assumptions about each others' species, and reflect on their lives.

The series as a whole is about kindness, personal growth, hope, and healing, even amidst discrimination and tragedy. Here, we learn the stories of Speaker, an Akarak traveling with her sister and helping others of her species navigate life as refugees; Roveg, an exiled Quelin artist with a very important appointment to keep; Pei, an Aeluon who works as a cargo runner in war zones; and their Laru hosts Ouloo and her inquisitive child Tupo. This novel doesn't shy away from difficult topics, from refugees in diaspora trying to maintain community and culture, to nationalism, to reproductive justice. Yet through all of it, Chambers writes with empathy. There are no solutions here that change the structures causing these problems, but there is an opportunity for individuals to build respect for each other, acknowledge real problems, and come to terms with the choices they've made.

There's not a lot of action here. This is a book about strangers forced together by circumstance into sitting on their hands for a lot longer than they'd like, talking to each other out of politeness or desire for distraction. The plot unfolds around personal stories shared in moments of tension and emotional vulnerability. I had no problems with the pacing and I never felt like the plot dragged or belabored the point, but there's a quietness and intimacy to most of the scenes in the book.

I loved this book as much as I loved the rest of the series. I'm sad that this is the last of the Wayfarers series because it has brought so much kindness and hope to the genre. I would have gladly read many more books in this universe. If you want sci-fi that is warm and comforting, even as it addresses pain and trauma, then this is the series for you. Each novel in the quartet can be read as a standalone, although later books do contain some spoilers for previous books in the series. (In this case, the spoilers are minor and this is a perfectly good place to start.)
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An almost perfect ending to a series of companion books I have loved to the moon and back. The first book, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, is still at the top of my Wayfarer's heap; it being one of those books I would give six stars to if I could. The others only come in at 4.5 stars being judged against Long Way, and not SciFi literature in general. They are all strong contenders in the SciFi genre as a whole. I'm sorry to see the stories of the Wayfarer and her crew, their families, friends, and acquaintances come to an end.

This will be a series I will re-read more than once as I have the Dune series.
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An absolutely spectacular addition to this sci-fi series! I had yet to pick up any of Becky Chambers books prior to receiving this ARC, and so I binged the entire Wayfarers series right before reading this installment. I don't really binge series anymore, because it's been a long time since I came across a series that I just couldn't put down. However, I flew through the Wayfarers series! Chambers writing and character creation is incredible. I'm usually a more plot driven reader, but the characters are what really got me attached to this series. They're all so unique and complex and you root for every one of them. Also, the representation that she incorporates into her stories is fantastic.

I'm not sure is this is the last book in the series or not. I hope not. I can't wait to see what else Chambers has to bring to this story and these characters.
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An imaginative and heartwarming story about people
When a disaster disrupts travel and communications on the planet Gora, three travelers find themselves stranded at the Five-Hop One-Stop run by Ouloo and her sometimes cooperative offspring Tupo. The travelers are strangers from different planets and different species and are on journeys very important to their personal lives. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within tells the stories of Oulo and Tupo and the travelers  as they all get to know each other and try to salvage their individual missions. 
There are no humans in this book, but the characters are all  PEOPLE, and Chambers does a wonderful job of getting her message of tolerance across through their stories, without having the message take over the book.  As they all get to know each other, the characters come to accept each other, too, and the book wraps up with a lovely ending suggesting that the lessons they learned on Gora might be lasting ones. 
The characters  have their personhood in common but not much else. Becky Chambers imaginatively portrays the characteristics of each species, from their appendages to their living arrangements to their reproductive systems and customs.  Pei is from a species that uses color for communication rather than vocalizing.  Speaker cannot  breathe oxygen and has to interact with everyone from a spacesuit. It certainly makes socializing challenging for her, but in one lovely episode Roveg overcomes those difficulties and has Speaker to breakfast and even provides food especially tailored to her species. But Speaker worries about her sister Tracker, who is on their stranded ship and has some medical challenges.  Pei wants to get to a meeting with the person she loves. Roveg needs to see family. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
This is described as a four-part series, but I consider it  four books set in the same universe. You can read and enjoy this book before reading the others, and reading it will not spoil the earlier books when you go back to read them also.
If you are looking for an action-packed adventure with bad guys or maybe dystopia, this is probably not your best choice. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a highly imaginative story about believable people, then The Galaxy, and the Ground Within might be just your cup of tea, or, if you are one of the travelers, your cup of mek.
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I have loved The Wayfarers series for a long while. Becky Chambers has created such a beautiful sci-fi world. Full of fun and inclusive stories, as well as addressing social issues in the way that good sci-fi does so well. The Galaxy And The Ground Within is no different. She introduces compelling new characters, and a familiar one, in a new setting. Her world building is exquisite and she manages to always leave me with love for all her characters and their sometimes alien ways. At the same time leaving me questioning if some of these things shouldn’t just be how humans handle certain issues. The Laru mother and child story hit me in this particular way for this book. That Tupo was allowed by Xyr species’ culture to choose the gender Xe are. That Xyr mother was happy and looked forward to the reveal, ready to celebrate For all outcomes. I felt very lucky to be approved by NetGalley to read an advanced copy of this book. I loved it, as I have every book I have read by Becky Chambers.
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I adore this series and I was sad that this was the finale! I love visiting the universe that Becky Chambers created. It took me awhile to really connect to the characters but by the end of the book I loved all of them. The beginning was a bit confusing as I was having a hard time keeping track of everything.
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Wowza, I realized after reading the entire book this is a sequel. It is that good! You will get hooked, but don’t do it like me. Start with the first one obviously first!
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Becky Chambers 4th installment of the Wayfarers series continues to delight readers. Her books show the optimism that science fiction used to have. Her ability to show how different species find ways to live among each other while still having their own ways of life and still respecting others gives us a template for how we should be on earth.
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