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My review of "Record of a Spaceborn Few."

My review of "Record of a Spaceborn Few" by Becky Chambers, third in the Wayfarers series:

The Wayfarers series is honestly just so perfect. It's very different from anything else out there, in a way that is refreshing, that I want to see more of from other authors. I get so tired of standard sci-fi, of Straight White People In Space, where the aliens are either stereotyped as villains, or Better and More Enlightened Than Humans, or differ from humans only in cosmetic ways. I'm tired of stories where everyone is white, straight, usually male, where we've taken all our modern baggage and moved it into space. I'm tired of human culture never growing or evolving in sci-fi. I'm tired, too, of humans always being Super Important in some way. But in the Wayfarers universe, humans left earth and became refugees, rescued by helpful aliens with their own flaws including frequent warfare. In this universe, we're a threatened species because of our own arrogance and short sightedness, but we have a chance to start over, and for the most part we're learning from our mistakes and making new ones. Human culture is different, from centuries spent living on generation ships looking for a new home, and from contact with the rest of the galaxy, where we're just one more species that fucked up their home planet. It's a universe where people of color feature as often as white people, where as many of the characters - including the main characters - are women as are men, where gay and lesbian and bisexual couples and even polyamorous partners are seen as often as heterosexual couples, where even the nature of heterosexual coupling is healthier. It's a universe with disabled characters that aren't stereotyped or pitied or "cured." A universe with autistic people, with poor people, with refreshing, long overdue diversity reflective of what humanity is actually like, and the best and worst it can become.

The pacing, too, is refreshing. In a world where so many sci-fi stories are action, action, ACTION at breakneck pace, where so many stories focus on political intrigue, universe-saving stakes, or some what-if scenario based out of science, the Wayfarers series is about humanity, about what it means to be sapient. It's about the very human lives of the characters in the story, even if they're not humans. The pacing is therefore centred around the lives of the characters, and it's written so it's fascinating to read, even when all the characters are doing is eating lunch together or something day-to-day like that. And when something momentous or disastrous happens, it's as much a shock to us, the readers, as it is to them, as it would be to us if we were in their situation. In that way, though it takes place in outer space, these books are amazingly down to earth as well.

And this series gets no more down to earth than in Record Of A Spaceborn few, where we follow the lives of several people who have opted to stay in the Exodus fleet despite finding planets to live on, whether by choice or by virtue of being too poor to leave, and one individual who found his life struggling to survive on a capitalist planet so difficult that he returned to the fleet to make a new life for himself. A slice of life novel taking place in space, I nonetheless could not put this book down, for its look at a very different human culture. "I laughed, I cried" is a cliche, but here it is nonetheless true.

Despite this, the novel still touched on weighty issues both timeless and modern. It is an excellent addition to science fiction. I look forward to more from this author, and I beg current and future authors to follow the spirit of this series. I highly recommend this whole series, but especially this book, to everyone.

This was cross-posted from https://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1397202.html
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