The wayfarers series is a series of science fiction novels by American author Becky Chambers, set in a common fictional universe (the Galactic Commons). So far two books have been published, and a third one has been announced. The books are only loosely connected: some of the side characters one book end up taking a leading role in the other. As a result the novels could be read as stand alone novels in any order, but I would still recommend to read them in order. As the author said on her official website “You don’t have to [read them in order], but that’s the way I hope you’ll read them. I wrote Closed and Common with the assumption that the reader’s already read The Long Way. Will you be able to follow the story? Yes. But you’re going to lack the greater context of who these people are, how they got to this point, and some of the supporting details about the setting (read as: I don’t explain species, tech, or politics twice).”
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
A very enjoyable and fun-to-read book. The plot is relatively thin, but the book still manage to be thrilling and interesting. The focus is on the fascinating world building, on the characters, and on their relationships. It has the same feel of the TV show firefly and the nice world building (but not the crazy political intrigue) of the expanse.
This is the story of a spaceship crew, contractor workers that builds space highways, i.e. wormholes. The crew contains many humans, but also a fair number of other alien species, each with their customs and culture. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, that only recently joined the Galactic Commons (a inter-species federation). A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she’s left behind, joins the crew as they embark in one of the most ambitious, and potentially dangerous projects. But as I said, this is all in the background, the main focus is on the characters, their stories, and their relationships.
While the book is not groundbreaking, while it does not introduce never seen before ideas, it is touching, fun to read, and it has very memorable characters.
Chambers originally self-published the book thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and it was subsequently re-published by Hodder & Stoughton. It was shortlisted for many prestigious awards, including the Clarke, and the British fantasy Awards.
A Closed and Common Orbit
I loved the first book of this series, and I was eager to read its sequel, i.e. this book. I was expecting more of the same: same crew, similar plot-line. I was quite pleased to see that the author decided to go in a very different direction: this book can be pretty much read as a stand-alone novel, and it focuses on side characters than briefly appear in the previous book. The tone of the book is very different as well: the tones of this book are darker, and the themes more complex and deep. The book is the story of three women: Sidra, that was once a ship’s artificial intelligence, and that recently acquired (illegally) a body, Pepper, a genetically modified human that was created to work as a slave, and Owl, another ship AI that raise the young Pepper once she escaped from the labor camp. The story is told in two separate timelines. In the first we follow the young pepper, escaped from the labor camp, as she makes sense of a new world with the help of Owl. In the second we follow Sidra, as a recently born AI, trusted into an artificial body, trying to make sense of a world that is quite different from the one she was programmed to live in, with the help of Pepper. The two stories develop symmetrically in parallel, toward a rewarding conclusion. I am looking forward reading more books set in this fictional world.
Record of a Spaceborn Few
We do not know much yet about the third installment of the series, that is currently slated for a June 2018 publication. We will update this post, as more details are released.