If you’ve read the other two in the trilogy, you’ll enjoy this one as well. It’s been a few years since I picked up the other two, but I remembered that they’re all loosely linked standalones, so I was able to read this with no issues as to remembering who anyone was. I’m sure I missed some hints to the previous books, but that didn’t seem to take away from following anything.
This book follows three strangers of different species who get stranded at the rest stop dome they’d stopped at temporarily. They all have pressing places to be at and are forced to get to know each other and work together despite some real differences. The book splits their viewpoints into different chapters, and we get to learn about all their problems and different motivations. It can be hard to do a multi-viewpoint narrative well, but this one flowed very easily and was a fun read. I think that making difficult narrative structures look easy is a sign of what a good writer Chambers is.
I’m sad to see the series end, as these were a breath of fresh air in a sea of dark and serious space opera/military sci-fi. I think the wisdom of Becky Chambers is in sustaining a narrative where the majority individual people are positive and trying to to work to a good resolution, while balancing that with the serious and dark events that surround them. I am a (hard-won) optimist so this sort of future humanism is right up my philosophical alley.
My only issue with this book was that I felt like the plight of the Akarak species went unresolved, and their storyline just seemed to cut off. I understand that the message there might be something along the lines of — well, this is to show that enormous bureaucratic and social issues can’t be solved neatly. Which I get, but I felt that it was better done in the book itself with the argument Pei and Speaker have about the ongoing war, which summarizes the philosophical point Chambers is trying to get across without leaving a big plot point dangling. The second book had a more satisfying arc in terms of solving the central issue. Maybe the Akarak issue just felt like more of the central issue to me, since all the other plot threads got wrapped up and those might have been the central ones for another reader. Either way, I felt unsatisfied on that front.
But overall recommended for anyone who read and enjoyed the other two, and since it could be read as a standalone, to anyone who likes good sci-fi.
Warnings for: discussions of serious war events/trauma, child in danger, societal prejudices