Review: THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Page Count: 336
Release Date: 04/20/21
Series: WAYFARERS, Book 4
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked it!

Haven’t read the other books in the series? You can find a review for previous book here: RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW

The planet Gora is a desolate wasteland, notable only for its convenient location along several space routes to much more hospitable planets. It is here that Ouloo and her son Tupo run the Five-Hop One-Stop, one of the many rest stops built on Gora to cater to space travelers waiting for their turn to use one of the intergalactic tunnels that connect to other destinations. Ouloo is hosting three aliens from three different ships when a major accident in orbit prevents anybody from leaving the planet. Stuck with nothing to do but converse with the other guests and contemplate their individual reasons for traveling, all the inhabitants at the Five-Hop One-Stop are forced to take some time to evaluate their lives and where they’ll go from here.

I have never regretted reading a Becky Chambers book (a streak that continues with THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN). Most of the sci-fi I read is high-stakes, with giant battles or intergalactic politics. Almost none of that can be found in the WAYFARERS series, something I find utterly refreshing. I once saw the series referred to as “domestic sci-fi,” and I find it a perfect description. These are characters just going through their ordinary, daily lives, facing problems that are mostly personal. It’s lovely and cozy, heightened by the pure creativity of Becky Chamber’s sci-fi universe.

That creativity has always been one of my favorite parts of the WAYFARERS series, and it is on full display in THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN. There is not a single human amongst the five main characters of the book. Instead we have four different alien types, all with different cultures, body types, and ways of processing sensory inputs. Ouloo, who runs the rest stop, tries her best to create accommodations that won’t be grating or uncomfortable for any one species. That means using subdued colors in the building paint, since Aeluons communicate in color and view bright colors as shouting. It means avoiding certain scents and making sure that every species’ dietary restrictions are considered, as a certain kind of flour might be perfectly normal for one species and a deathly allergen to another. As someone who adores world-building in both sci-fi and fantasy and is fascinated about reading about cultures other than my own, the WAYFARERS book always scratches a very particular itch.

I had a lovely time with the story and would happily recommend it to others. While it didn’t leave me with heightened emotions or contain a mind-blowing twist, THAT’S OKAY. We need quiet sci-fi in our lives, just as much as we need stories with galaxy-level stakes. While there’s nothing earth-shattering in the story, THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN is a wonderful escape from our ordinary Earth lives, and that’s plenty enough reason to read it for me.

Note: I was given a free ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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