Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series have been a real balm for the troubled soul. If anyone can serve up hopeful and joyous fiction in the manner of a good cuppa tea and scones, its Chambers. So it is slightly sad that find that The Galaxy, and the Ground Within will be the last of the Wayfarers books.
Like the previous books in the series, The Galaxy, is a story about how people from different walks of like can all band together and learn off each other. The event that precipitates the main cast coming together is a full-on failure of a satellite network, grounding a collection of passengers at the galactic version of a truck stop. But a really nice one, run by an empathetic hostess named Ouloo.
Which is great thing for all of the varied travellers that have found themselves stranded Five Hop One Stop, because they are all dealing with personal issues in their lives that extend beyond their current grounding. For anyone who’s read any of the previous Wayfarers books, it will come as no surprise that the story is highly character driven. Even though this is not a long book, and there are at most five protagonists, each has their own well, shaped character arc.
But what did surprise me is that even for a Wayfarers books, there is very little in the way of a central conflict—you couldn’t even call a main antagonist here. The tensions in this novel are driven almost solely off the main characters personal interactions. The book leans heavily on the idea there are no universal laws or creeds that work for all people, cultures and (in this case) species; when lifespans differ by decades, relationships follow different conventions and communications are based on different senses, sometimes you really do need to have the patience to talk it through with your fellow sentient beings in order to understand and cultivate empathy for each other. (BTW: no one in the main cast is human—but they are perplexed by our cheese fixation!)
I do find Chambers’ works fascinating in a way—this book follows a similar pattern to the previous three in the series, so in that regard I would not consider it groundbreaking. But her work is only getting more and more refined; compare the writing here to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and you can really see the difference. (Something I did have to consider when voting for the Hugos this year.) But even if it is a familiar formula, it is one that has remained compelling. I will miss these books, but it can’t be doubted that Chambers has left her mark on he cozy-core/hope-punk genre.
For Bingo, this is a level 2 Cozy, no doubt