Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

<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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.)
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
The final installment of The Wayfarer series highlights what Becky Chambers does so well. Chambers writes science fiction that focus on small stories about the everyday people of the universe in a way that is both kind and friendly. This wonderfully warm approach to a traditionally cool genre is refreshing.
Was this review helpful?
This was a lovely story, as I expected it would be, considering how the other books in the series were. It’s the story of a small planet called Gora, which is largely unremarkable except for its location. It has no water, no air, no life that didn’t come from somewhere else, nothing. It just so happens to be at a good distance between other popular travel destinations. So, it’s a good place for a stopover, refueling, and so on. It’s basically a space truck-stop.

The Five-Hop One-Stop is run by Ooli Oht Ouloo and her child, Tupo. They are Laru, which is a kind of long-necked, furry, quadrupedal sapient species. Ouloo makes it a point to be as welcoming to all walks of life as she can be, and Tupo helps xyr mother the best that xe can.

On this particular day, she has three incoming shuttles docking. One is a Quelin (a sort of insectoid species), one is Aeluon (bipedal aliens who communicate through facial colours), and one is Anarak, which, I think are a type of… very small, beaked alien?

The point is that all of these people are very, very different from each other. Many of their species don’t really get along with others. Some are outright reclusive. So, when an accidental cascade failure of the planet’s entire satellite network causes all three of them to get stuck on Gora at the Five-Hop One-Stop, they find themselves somewhat reluctantly spending time together. Ouloo has made them as welcome as she can, and they learn about each other, and how they’re not actually so different after all, even despite being very different physiologically.

Just by its very nature, there is a lot of information here about each species, as each of them learns of the others, which I thought was fascinating. We’ve seen some of these species before in other Wayfarers books, but this one gets in depth again, which I didn’t mind because it’s been a while. I quite enjoyed learning about new alien species, and imagining how they do day to day tasks.

I loved some of these characters very much, especially as the story went on. I think I related the most to Pei, who goes through some stuff in this book that I can really relate to. Feeling as though you are… meant to do a thing… pressured to do a thing that you just… don’t want to do. I can relate. I got teary-eyed at times with Pei.

But even with the bit of teariness, The Galaxy and the Ground Within is often chuckle-out-loud funny. There is one passage in here which has four entirely different species of people, none of which are human, trying to understand (in increasing horror as it goes on) what cheese is. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, because when you really think about it, cheese would be weird as hell to aliens.

All told, I thought that this was a wonderful conclusion to The Wayfarers, and while I am sad to see it end, I can’t wait to see what Becky Chambers has for us in the future!
Was this review helpful?
The fourth and final book in Becky Chambers’ fabulous Wayfarers series is coming out in the U.S. on April 20, and I’m thrilled to have been granted access to the #ARC. 

Chambers breathes new life into her universe of the Galactic Commons with each book, as she introduces new captivating alien species each time. In The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, Chambers takes a 12 Angry Men approach to the story. Five beings from four very different planets are stuck at the Five-Hop One-Stop, a galactic B&B of sorts, when a freak accident strands everyone on the planet until power and utilities can be restored. In an effort to pass the time, this group of strangers get to know each other and in doing so, get to know each other’s species and cultures in a way that never would have happened otherwise. And just when tensions are at their highest and mutual understanding has reached an impasse, tragedy strikes, forcing the group to put aside their differences and work together. 

As in the three previous books in this series, the characters are a mix of endearing and complicated, making for the ultimate debate over cultural differences, awareness, and acceptance. I’m going to miss this universe but I can’t wait to read what Chambers comes up with next!

A huge thank you to @NetGalley, @AvonBooks, and @HarperVoyagerUS for the advanced copy of this book! I’m a huge fan of the Wayfarers series and couldn’t wait to read this one. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers / Pages: 336 / Genre: Sci-Fi / Release Date: Apr. 20, 2021
Was this review helpful?
A worthy final installment of a series that does so much and is so interesting and endearing. 

More and more in recent years when I really like something I find myself using the phrase “good hearted” or “has a good heart” and I think that describes The Wayfarers series to a tee. While not everyone gets along and the world certainly isn’t perfect, good people are capable of learning from their mistakes and often a platonic love suffuses the world building and becomes the binding glue of the universe. 

A lovely, cozy sci-fi.
Was this review helpful?
I don’t know how Becky Chambers does it but literally every book is better than the previous one. Of course I loved this one, it’s Chambers–she could write the phone book and I’d be impressed. I’m always amazed at the raw edges of humanity she’s able to explore, even when there’s not a human among the characters. She never fears to dig into the heart of the matter, and this is why I love her work.

The Galaxy, and The Ground Within is very much like most of the other Wayfarer books in that it’s slice of life in space. Our characters (except for a mother and child) are all strangers to one another at the start of the story and would have remained so except that due to a failure of technology they’re all stranded together at this pit-stop for an extended length of time with little to no communication as to what’s happening other than they must remain in place until things are cleared for launch. The group all come from very different backgrounds and are moving through this port for different reasons. The various members of this group are all worried about different things–will they make it to where they’re going on time, what about their loved ones, is everything okay on the rest of this planet? To alleviate some of that worry the hostess of the stop decides to try and bring the group together and make everyone comfortable. Left with little to do other than to get to know one another, that’s exactly what they do.

Now, this is where Chambers writing really comes to life. Each of these characters is lovely in their own way. They all have very distinct backgrounds and back stories, motivations and what not. And they’re all good people at the end of the day. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have conflict with one another, even with the effort each of them makes to be polite to one another within the context of each of their species. You have the hostess who tries to make everyone comfortable and accommodate everyone but still sometimes makes mistakes. But she tries and she’s willing to learn. And no one condemns her for getting things wrong because she’s trying. And then you have two characters arguing over a war and who is in the right. (Turns out war is complicated.) You have a character exiled from his homeland. You have a character that everyone fears because their species isn’t understood and is marginalized, left to the fringes of this galactic society. All of these people with their stories coming together makes for some great conversations and leaves the reader with a lot of food for thought.

I think the message at the heart of this book is that we would all be far better off if we understood each other more and took the time to do that. Let’s have extended conversations instead of drive-by twitter posturing. You don’t have to always agree with each other but it’s important to at least understand someone else’s point of view and by listening maybe you can learn something. The characters in this were forced to slow down and interact with each other due to circumstances, but maybe we should all take some time out of this fast-paced world to stop and get to know each other more. Maybe the world would be a slightly better place for it. And that’s why I loved this book and all of Chambers’ writing–she imagines how the world could be better. 5/5 stars.

NOTE: this review will go live on my blog on 4/6/21 (link will not be live until then).
Was this review helpful?
When I think about space operas, I think about this series. This book, as its predecessors, was a quite, simple yet complex, tale about different individuals getting together and just being themselves, challenging their lives and how they view others.

The story takes place on a space "truck stop" after an accident forces three very different individuals to stay there for a while. We have aliens from different cultures, upbringings, and experiences, all together, knowing each other outside history books. They will learn more about themselves and how little they actually know about what's outside their civilization.

The characters stuck there, plus the mom and kid who run the Five-Hop, will form a bond like no other. Not without confrontation and learning opportunities. Each of them, very different, with a story to tell, places to go, decisions to make.

There's no way to explain this book and its simple complexities. This is a quiet space opera you have to experience for yourself. This series is one of the sweetest I've ever read and I will never stop recommending it.
Was this review helpful?
Last book in the Wayfarers series. Very cozy space opera.

Due to a planet-wide power outage, 3 different travelers are stranded at a rest stop/motel. Told to shelter in place until the crisis is over, they slowly engage with each other and the innkeepers. All of them are regular people trying to do their best at what needs to be done; all of them have made extraordinary choices. 

Told from multiple points of view, Note: none of these POV characters are human, although they are united by a disgust at learning that human adults eat cheese voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?