Review: The Galaxy and the Ground Within

Review:

The Galaxy and the Ground Within

By Becky Chambers

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: N/A (none of the characters are human)

Bechdel Test: Yes (in that characters use she/her pronouns but they are not human)

Summary: 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. At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their… whatever they walk with, get fuel, transit permits, and garner assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child. When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers 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.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

Becky Chambers is one of my comfort authors. You know the kind that, when they release a new book, you know it is going to be the one you reach for when you are struggling. I always leave Chamber’s novels feeling hopeful and content, even when the books make me cry. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is no exception, easily making it to my top ten of the year!

On a planet with no natural resources, with no real purpose other than to be a stop on the galactic highway, five strangers find themselves stuck. A mother raising a child at the inn and three long-haul spacers only expected to share space for a day; but now they aren’t sure when, if ever, they’ll be able to leave this place. With tensions already high and an intergalactic history that’s harmed all of them, things could go bad very quickly. Their only hope of coming out of this sane is to put aside differences and begin to see each other as more than just what cultures have done to each other. Easier said than done.

One of the things I most admire about Chambers’ books are the way in which world building and character building go hand in hand. The world of the Wayfarers series is rich with cultural details, a history that is made up of intricate details that play a role in the trauma and triumphs of the characters. Never is that more clear than in this novel. 

As the characters spend an increasing amount of time together, their cultural and historical differences spill out almost violently. Everyone has sides in war, after all, even the people who claim to take no side at all. It would be easy to tell a story where these differences pull the characters apart until they are literally at each other’s throats. But that isn’t the story The Galaxy and the Ground Within wants to tell.

Instead, we see these characters arguing only to come together again for the good of another in their group. When they eventually do part, it is with a deeper understanding of themselves and the galaxy that they occupy. Chambers does an elegant and masterful job of showing the flaws and merits of every character’s point of view, of treating these stunningly realistic and flawed characters as three-dimensional and, ironically, human.

The Galaxy and the Ground Within is out now and I think it makes a perfect gift for the Sci-Fi fan in your life. I would consider getting it from your favorite indie bookstore — they need all the support you can provide!

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Galaxy and the Ground Within? Leave a comment telling me your favorite Wayfarers book. You can also find me on Instagram @booked.with.grace and on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@ynbushehri) for editing my posts.

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