*Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton & NetGalley for approving me to review this in exchange for an honest review!
The latest and final instalment of the Wayfarers quartet is a perfectly pitched, stunning farewell to a series I’ve loved since I first picked up Chambers’ A Very Long Way to a Small Angry Planet several years ago.
This queer, wacky, alien (in every sense of the word) sci-fi isn’t like your usual book series, much to its credit. There is no one ‘main’ character that you follow, but rather the stories are loosely connected by threads as briefly mentioned characters in one book become a point of view character in the next. One of the things I love about her work is that Chambers manages to make her novels both intimate and expansive, packed with lore and emotion, with every newly introduced character as unique and intriguing as the next. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is no exception.
What is it about?
This book focuses on the stories of three separate characters: Roveg, Pei (whom readers might recognise as Ashby’s Aeulon lover from the first book), and Speaker. The storyline kicks off when they stop – and are subsequently stranded – at the Five-Hop One-Stop, a waystation for travellers hopping between worlds run by Ouloo and her child Tupo. The “Snowed In” (or in this case “grounded by lots of space debris in the atmosphere”) trope is one that really fits her kind of storytelling well, as we follow this unlikely band of different alien species who would otherwise be strangers and see them come together during their time here.
Where Book 2 and 3 depart from the usual plot having a wider setting to play with, this final book brings back some of the intense character-driven conversations I loved about Book 1. Chambers’ strikes the right balance between poignant exploration of a whole host of topics from the meaning of family, love, loss, self-actualisation, and humour (there’s a particularly funny bit where the collective alien group discuss cheese, which I chuckled a lot at). The Galaxy and the Ground Within offers readers a concentrated exploration of “human” relationships, without a human in sight.
It’s in this book that Chambers really gets to flex her world-building muscles, dropping details about previously unexplained alien species, exploring their culture and customs a little more. Whilst one might think this “snowed in” trope means the novel is at risk of being stagnant, she continues to keep it interesting. There are twists and turns as characters learn more about each other, explore the nuances between them, argue, gossip, and change their own perspectives and prejudices that kept me glued to the page.
Without spoiling too much, the ending of this novel is a bittersweet one. As I reached the final few pages, much like Tupo, Ouloo, Roveg, Pei, and Speaker find a place in each other’s hearts, this book nestled its way into my own. I didn’t want it to end, but just as the character’s separate and get back to their original journeys, so too must this book come to a close.
The Galaxy and Ground Within is a fantastic send-off for a truly unique and colourful sci-fi series. It is a must read for fans of her series, and offers long-term fans a cathartic type of closure. I’m sad to see it finish, but am so very glad that I read this Wayfarers series to the very end, and I very much look forward to seeing what Chambers publishes next.
This book is due to be published on 18th February 2021.