A gorgeous tale of embracing diversity that humans could take a note from.
Genre: YA, Science Fiction,
No. of pages: 336
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.
The final instalment in the Wayfarers collection by Becky Chambers, ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ follows an all alien cast as they are isolated on a recreational way-station due to a wormhole glitch. It’s a clash of culture and politics that really shines a light on perspective and identity. It creates an atmosphere that discusses the debate on the pronoun issue popular in today’s society and how accommodating someone’s differences is about building community, friendship, and trust because exclusionary habits only lead to war and stagnant progress of society.
The pacing is quite slow because this is not a narrative about reaching a certain goal; it’s about relating to others – alien others – and to the self. It is a great exploration in identity and the core values that any individual faces regardless of race, culture, and politics. It is providing a poignant observation on today’s society around gender identity and social constructs. Because we are dealing with alien races and not human beings it really drives to the heart of the issues without the messy homo sapien culture getting in the way.
The plot is very simple but ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ is not about plot, and it is about the individuals within. We meet Pei again; who was the love interest of one of the crew of the Wayfarer from the debut in this series ‘A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ along with many of the other species of alien we have encountered throughout the novels. We get more background into their stories, origins, and culture.
I love the perspectives and the issues discussed in this novel, but the pacing did feel a little slow – but I’ve found that with all of these novels – a lot of care an attention has been given to the characters their motivations and their interacting identities. It just highlights that my personal preference tends towards a faster paced story. But ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ is atmospheric. Becky Chambers expertly builds worlds (and cultures) so that the way-station is practically a character in of itself. There is also that intangible element she crafts of community and the hope that different individuals have to connect and interact. Living in a rural environment, this concept translates because we are so isolated you really have to relate to and rely on the kindness of your neighbours at times. It forces you to forge relationships.
I think this last book in the series has surprised me the most and been the heaviest to impact me personally – just in my approach to preconceived ideas identity gender and sexuality. If our society was more a blend of alien species rather than a mish-mash of races, religion, and identities, maybe our attitudes would change.
Another strong recommendation from me. A fantastic blend of science fiction and character driven narrative.
Overall feeling: Beautifully crafted
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