Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

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Bittersweet ending to a wonderful, delightful, near perfect series. Chambers finished this quartet with a strong, compassionate, beautiful story. It epitomizes why I fell in love with this series to begin with - it's a beautiful look at family (found and biological), the choices we make, the ways we communicate, and the different ways we can show up for each other. Deeply, deeply human (especially for a book that doesn't have any human characters). Left me in tears at the end. Stunning.

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Unfortunately I felt the same about this series from beginning to end: bored. There is very little plot in the books and this one may have had the least of all of them. They are overall too nicey-nice for my liking and conflict, when there actually is some, is too easily resolved. Overall the world Chambers created feels extremely unrealistic, especially for space exploration. I suppose it is fiction so anything is possible, but I as a reader prefer more realism. Also, this series has never truly felt like sci-fi, regardless of its lack of grit or plot.

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Everything Becky Chambers writes has such a rich philosophical weight to it. I know many people were disappointed with the way the Wayfarers series went after Long Way, but it really was a natural progression towards exploring the themes and tensions of the setting, if not following a single narrative. The series asks what it means to be a good person, how to be part of a community, how to make choices that are true to yourself vs those around you vs the world at large, and the friction between those groups and those choices. It asks what to do when there is no right answer, but with such endless care. This is less a series than a group of related works that ask the reader to meditate on how to be a person, and that's not going to be something everyone enjoys (especially since Long Way gives a taste of what the series is to become, but I don't think is representative of the series' goals and triumphs as a whole).

In this book particularly, it really crystallizes what Chambers has been working up to through the whole series. There's such a breathtaking care given to every character-- complex motives, difficult choices, heartbreaking backgrounds, and exploring what happens when those characters brush up against one another in uncomfortable but necessary ways. It also feels extremely timely-- I appreciate the sheer respect shown by each character to everyone else, despite the sometimes unconquerable differences between them.

This book is going to be polarizing, I think. It doesn't have much of a plot-- only two major incidents happens, and although they affect the story, they're not the main focus. It's really a character study that draws the questions the series has explored up to this point to their natural conclusion. I thought it was brilliant, but people going in expecting a return to Long Way or ever something resembling other popular Sci-Fi series are going to be disappointed. If you instead go in expecting those tropes to be used to hold a mirror to ourselves, I think you'll be quietly pleased.

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Three travelers from three different species get stuck at a refueling station and have nothing to do to pass the time except explore their host's home and each other's differences. If this sounds like the perfect book to read while COVID-19 ravages the US, you're correct.

I will sing Becky Chambers's praises from now until the sun goes down and then I'll start again when the day dawns new. Her books are fun, funny, hopeful, delightful, and queer af. This book felt like a balm to my soul, especially after the stress and uncertainty of 2020. If you're looking for a light-hearted yet deeply-sincere, low-stakes romp through space, this is the book for you. Even if you're not looking for that, I'm willing to bet this book is for you. The characters in this book (and all the books in the Wayfarers series) will climb inside your head and heart and will not move out.

Endless thanks to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for providing the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Publishes April 2021.

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My god, this was just beautiful.

This book is so deeply human. It's poetic that there are no human main characters in this book; there didn't need to be for me to immediately understand that Chambers is examining what it means to be human. I should have expected the deep philosophical core to this book, because all of the Wayfarers books have this bent. But I wasn't expecting HOW FUCKING HARD this one would hit me, and how much I needed to read this book. Perfect to finish out this terrible plague year.

I am in awe of Chambers. I'm in awe of these books. I will carry them around with me, in my heart, forever. I've already re-read two, and I know I'm going to be re-reading again and again and again.

[I can't believe this is the last one. I was hoping this series would go on and on and on, like many space opera series. (hide spoiler)]

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for the ARC.

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I rave about Becky Chambers’s books to everyone, and this one is no exception. Part of her Wayfarers series, this follows a handful of aliens of different species and backgrounds when they find themselves stuck while traveling on difficult missions. They’re cared for by a warm and caring host and her child, both of whom are completely endearing and serve more books about them and their business and guests. Political differences flare up, friendships are made, and extraordinary events occur. Like all of Chambers’s books, this is space opera at its most beautiful, full of kindnesses and learning and understanding and helping. It’s the healing read you need right now.

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A somewhat slow plot, with lots of alien cultural/species digressions. But it's all so interesting and well-written that I don't mind a bit.

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oo, 4 and 1/2 stars. Readers get to explore more of this universe with a side character from a previous novel, now one of the main characters. Four new alien cultures get page space in a story set during a few days of a not-quite-emergency situation.

Not quite 5 stars, because the writing felt a little... fake? The author's style is very gentle, descriptive, and unhurried. There were a few parts where the writing stuck out to me, not quite in the flow, and it felt like a very good writing was doing a good but not flawless job of mimicking the style. I couldn't put my finger on it, and probably won't even be noticeable to most readers.

A great example of one of the things I love about sci-fi: we're not talking about colonization, reparations, and reproductive rights; no, we're talking about aliens! This universe is big on consent, honoring pronouns, found families, and being honest with oneself.

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I loved it. I love that the characters are are non-human.

Imagine that you are stranded with 3 strangers for several days. Would you get to know each other, learn about their lives? Would these people end up changing your life? That is the premise of this book and it is very well done.

I've enjoyed every book I've read by this author and was sad to read that this will bed the last book in this series.

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"Sometimes things were just too broken for even the cleverest of workarounds."

2.5 rounded up.

Set on Gora, the planetary equivalent of a rest area, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within follows five characters stuck together for a few days after an orbital accident around the planet that grounds the ships. Among these characters is Pei, Ashby's partner from the first book, as well as two Laru, a Quelin and an Akarak. I was particularly interested to see the Akarak character as this was species was only briefly a part of the first book and hadn't been explored in much detail yet.

The focus of Wayfarers 4 is mainly on expanding the world-building and exploring tension between the different species based around their vastly different cultural histories. It seems odd to me to have this as the focus since this is the last Wayfarers book (which I'm really sad about) and unfortunately this choice also means that plot and character development suffer to the point of them both being almost non-existent. There's the main accident that grounds them but beyond that there's only one significant plot-point and it happens in the last 20% of the book. The rest of it is really just the characters kind of hanging around not doing a whole lot other than learning about each other, and in particular learning about the Akarak.

Usually the draw of these books is that they kind of explore some version of everyday life in this universe and so plot can be on the backburner a bit without the quality of the book suffering, but since the characters here aren't even experience everyday life it doesn't really work. They're just stuck in a bubble not able to go anywhere.....hmm that sounds familiar. The three characters who have come to the planet (as opposed to the two who live there operating the little stop-over the book is set at) do have their own things going on and clear motivations for wanting to leave ASAP, but these motivations are kind of just mentioned at the beginning and then don't really become important again until the end of the book. Pei is the only character where her individual story is really important during the novel but it feels less consequential knowing that this is the end of the series and we're not going to get the rest of her story.

That's not to say the exploration of the world-building and the tensions between some of the species aren't good, I really enjoyed this part of the novel, but again it just felt like such an odd choice to focus on this since this is the last book in the series. And I mean I did still enjoy reading this, but it just wasn't anywhere near as good as the others in the series and the disappointment of the series ending abruptly is compounded by this being a disappointing read.

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within can certainly be read as a standalone entry in the Wayfarers series, though readers who have read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet will have a more easy time getting into the world of the Galactic Commons (and have more context on a returning character). This book proudly continues the series' tradition of being some of the most interesting "quiet" sci-fi out there,, and this time around doesn't even have a human as one of the main cast or supporting characters, leaving the perspective firmly rooted in the eyes of beings whose cultures and ideas differ greatly from our own.

As always, Chambers excels at depicting how individuals coming from different backgrounds, cultures, and sensibilities interact with each other. Despite trauma and tragedy being real elements that characters deal with, the overall vibe of this book is very cozy, there is no real doubt that the characters cannot overcome the crisis they encounter in these pages, but that isn't a problem as the real meat of this story is seeing her characters talk, solve their own problems, or deal with things that might be troubling them.

Anyone who has ever thought about what it might be like to meet an alien, or what it would be like to actually live in a sci-fi future where we interact with them everyday owes it to themselves to read Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series. I don't know if I can give a series that focuses so intently on creating interesting characters and introducing readers to diverse alien species and cultures higher praise than that.

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Another slam dunk of a read from Becky Chambers. I love her works and look very forward to getting my mitts on a finished copy of this novel for my bookshelf. So much fun to read!!

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This book furthers our acquaintance with several different types of aliens (or should I say sapients?) Including one we've actually met before in a different novel of the series. There's a type of story called "cozy mysteries", I think this story would fit in a "cozy sci-fi" niche.
It's a good story, especially when I realized, there isn't a human in sight. I enjoyed learning more about the various species' backstories. I'll look forward to more from this author.

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Becky Chambers can do no wrong. I love the way she writes, the characters she creates and the worlds that she brings to life. Her books are always worth reading and they never fail to be enjoyable.

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