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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
Another great addition to Becky Chambers' galaxy. The usual (but NEVER boring or predictable) thoughtfulness and creativity I expect from the author.
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.
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!
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.
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.
<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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.)