I’ve absolutely adored the Wayfarers series so far, and as such, highly anticipated this addition (and conclusion) to it. When it came to my attention on NetGalley, of course I requested it, and was very pleasantly surprised when I was approved!
So thank you to the author, as well as Harper Voyager via NetGalley for the review copy!
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. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—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.
This was a lovely story, as I expected it would be, considering how the other books in the series were. It’s the story of a small planet called Gora, which is largely unremarkable except for its location. It has no water, no air, no life that didn’t come from somewhere else, nothing. It just so happens to be at a good distance between other popular travel destinations. So, it’s a good place for a stopover, refueling, and so on. It’s basically a space truck-stop.
The Five-Hop One-Stop is run by Ooli Oht Ouloo and her child, Tupo. They are Laru, which is a kind of long-necked, furry, quadrupedal sapient species. Ouloo makes it a point to be as welcoming to all walks of life as she can be, and Tupo helps xyr mother the best that xe can.
On this particular day, she has three incoming shuttles docking. One is a Quelin (a sort of insectoid species), one is Aeluon (bipedal aliens who communicate through facial colours), and one is Anarak, which, I think are a type of… very small, beaked alien?
The point is that all of these people are very, very different from each other. Many of their species don’t really get along with others. Some are outright reclusive. So, when an accidental cascade failure of the planet’s entire satellite network causes all three of them to get stuck on Gora at the Five-Hop One-Stop, they find themselves somewhat reluctantly spending time together. Ouloo has made them as welcome as she can, and they learn about each other, and how they’re not actually so different after all, even despite being very different physiologically.
Just by its very nature, there is a lot of information here about each species, as each of them learns of the others, which I thought was fascinating. We’ve seen some of these species before in other Wayfarers books, but this one gets in depth again, which I didn’t mind because it’s been a while. I quite enjoyed learning about new alien species, and imagining how they do day to day tasks.
I loved some of these characters very much, especially as the story went on. I think I related the most to Pei, who goes through some stuff in this book that I can really relate to. Feeling as though you are… meant to do a thing… pressured to do a thing that you just… don’t want to do. I can relate. I got teary-eyed at times with Pei.
But even with the bit of teariness, The Galaxy and the Ground Within is often chuckle-out-loud funny. There is one passage in here which has four entirely different species of people, none of which are human, trying to understand (in increasing horror as it goes on) what cheese is. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, because when you really think about it, cheese would be weird as hell to aliens.
All told, I thought that this was a wonderful conclusion to The Wayfarers, and while I am sad to see it end, I can’t wait to see what Becky Chambers has for us in the future! 5/5 stars!~