Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, of which Record of a Spaceborn Few is the third following The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, is doing something unique and truly special. Chambers has created a huge, and hugely detailed, intergalactic tapestry comprised of humans, a variety of alien species, and complex AI entities, and spread them across the universe. That’s cool, in and of itself. What takes it to a whole other level, for me, is that with each book so far Chambers has introduced us to new and different characters, in new and different, far-flung corners of their universe. Taken together, the novels form a mosaic of sorts, a future history as grand as any in science fiction today, but built of smaller, more intimate stories rather than lightyear spanning space battles and multi-generational sagas.
Record of a Spaceborn Few concerns the Exodus Fleet, a gathering of spaceships that contain the last remnants of the humans who left a poisoned Earth generations ago. They’ve long been accepted by the myriad other citizens of the galactic community, but they keep one foot in space, living in their ramshackle, antiquated ships rather than settling planet-side. Because this is Chambers, we get to know the members of the Exodus Fleet through the lives of a half dozen or so denizens, intimately, not just how they live their lives day to day, but also their hopes and dreams, and the things that keep them up at night.
Through the first part of the novel the characters are mostly separate, telling alternating stories, but midway through a tragedy brings them together. Chambers handles that tragedy, and the resulting heartbreak, with compassion and understanding.
This is hard science fiction with heart, humor, and humanity (and I’m not just talking about humans, here). Chambers has lots to say about the nature of community, about diversity and inclusivity. Reading the Wayfarer novels gives me comfort is a way few books do. They are a joy.
Chambers won the Hugo Award for best series in 2019. The fourth novel in the series, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, was published in April of this year.