cover image The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

Becky Chambers. Harper Voyager, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-293604-2

Chambers concludes her Wayfarers series (after Record of a Spaceborn Few) with this delightful, cozy novel of cross-species alien interaction. Ouloo, a furry Laru, conscientiously serves all her customers at the Five-Hop One Stop on the lifeless galactic way station of Gora while raising her moody adolescent child, Tupo. A satellite crash knocks out communication and delays departures just after three separate aliens arrive on Gora. Pei Tem, a scaled, cargo-running Aeluon, grows frustrated that she won’t make her rendezvous with her secret human lover. Roveg, an exiled arthropodlike Quelin, frets about missing a mysterious but vital appointment. And Speaker, a methane-breathing Akarak, worries about her weak-lunged twin sister, Tracker, who is still on their ship in orbit. As official statements continually push off the all-clear, the stranded group gets to know each other in fascinating, mostly congenial conversations. But things take a turn for the worse when Pei enters her once-in-a-lifetime “shimmering” stage of fertility and picks a drunken fight with Speaker—and their argument distracts everybody from noticing a crisis. There are some real moments of anxiety to keep the pages turning, but the highlights are the characters’ meaty debates and Chambers’s delightful exploration of cultural difference. Devoted fans and newcomers alike will thrill to this imaginative sci-fi confection. [em](Apr.) [/em]