Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #4
Published by Harper Voyager on April 20, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction Fantasy, Space Opera
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, Apple
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 thing I’ve really enjoyed about all the books in the Wayfarers series is they are a little bit like a show on the discovery channel showing you all the intricacies of a species or an ecosystem loosely surrounded by a plot. Each book explores both a species and interspecies relationships somewhere in space. The rumor is that The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the final book of this series. That makes me a little sad as I’ve enjoyed the world/galaxy Becky Chambers has created and could read a lot more stories in it.
Oolou and Tupo are a mother-child pair who run a sort of space bed and breakfast on a planet that really doesn’t have anything to offer but being close to jumping off points to a lot of other places. They are Laru, a species that in my head was a cross between some kind of very large furry cat and a kangaroo. They have guests in and out all the time, but usually just for a day until the guest refuel, grab some snacks and hit the road, basically think space 7-11 with a few other perks. When three very different guests get stuck at the space 7-11, due to a technical glitch, each has their own worries and each is trying to distract themselves with the other guest.
Pei, an Aeulon (beautiful fish person) has some very large choices to make in her life. She has been in a very taboo relationship for years and while the human she loves has never pushed her to share their relationship openly, she has come to a point where she either needs to be more honest about it and find a way to incorporate her Aeulon life better into it or possibly end it. She also has a once and a lifetime decision to make and will she decided to go with her cultural norms or choose a new path?
Roveg is an exiled Quelin (beetle like creature) artist. He hasn’t been to his home in over a decade, but has a chance. He must make his appointment on time or else they will not let him visit his home for a very special event. Learning about the Quelin species as he interacts with the others stuck on the station was fascinating. I really liked the individual he was and how easily he befriended all there.
Speaker was one of the most interesting species we have met to date. She is a Akarak (bird like creatures) and has to interact with the world through a mechanical suit whenever not in a ship of her species. No one seems to know much about her species since they mostly keep to themselves. As she educates some of her fellow guests stuck on the planet, we learn what makes the Akarak so different, they are the only sentient species to come from a planet that doesn’t breathe air. It has made their lives extremely complicated after loosing their planet years before to a different species altogether.
Friendships and bonds were made on this layover that I think would stand the test of time. I loved how hopeful it was that even if you are very different there are always commonalities, even between species that don’t breathe the same atmosphere, and lasting friendships can be made anywhere. This was another delightful look at a slice of life and culture in the galaxy Becky Chambers created. While it was a great wrap up to the story, I will miss this galaxy and all the creatures in it.
“I was operating on the hope that such things wouldn’t matter when the sky is falling apart.’
‘Such things shouldn’t matter at all, regardless of what the sky is doing.”
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