Well, my space-faring friends, Becky has done it again. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within marks the final instalment in her Wayfarers series, and it is just so damn lovely.
For readers who aren’t familiar, Wayfarers is a series of four standalone sci-fi novels set in the same far-future universe. Each book tends to be moving and sentimental in a way that not many sci-fi authors have achieved.
TGatGW is essentially a lockdown situation – with which we are all now painfully familiar – but with several sentient species, all stuck in the same planetary habitat and suddenly having to figure each other out. This happens on the commuter planet of Gora, where travellers layover while waiting to go through one of the nearby wormholes and travel to another, more exciting place. A low-orbit accident leads to the destruction of Gora’s satellite network (which I know, thanks to this book, is an example of Kessler Syndrome), forcing all ships to be grounded. The ensuing story is essentially an answer to the age-old question, “what do you get when an Auleon, Quelin and Akarak get stranded in a Laru-owned Five-Hop One-stop”? And the answer is not a punchline, but heckin’ FEELS.
TGatGW is the first Chambers novel where none of the main characters are human, but I didn’t even pick up on this until after I’d put the book down; there’s more humanity to be found in this story about strange, sentient species than in most books about humanity. The author does what she does best, and deep dives into the cultures and social structure of disparate sentient species; from gender to politics, life expectancy to eating habits (including a particularly hilarious section where the protagonists are horrified by the concept of humans eating cheese).
That’s a pretty quick summary, but it effectively sums up this book… that’s the entirety of the plot. But, learning about each species and seeing them overcome their differences is the point of the story, and it’s cathartic AF.
I’d recommend this book if you want to spend more time making some alien friends and less time shooting at them. TGatGW is a rare opportunity to explore the mundane yet fascinating details that are often overlooked in sci-fi. And, you’ll finish the book reassured that while the universe is oh so big and scary, it’s also a beautiful thing.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within will be published in February, and is currently available for preorder.
Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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