Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers 3) – A Cozy Space Soap Opera

Record of a Spaceborn Few

Title: Record of a Spaceborn Few
Author: Becky Chambers
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: July 24th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s): Space Opera, Aliens, LGBTQIAP+
Page Count: 368 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.0/10

 

 

 

 

Becky Chambers’ third entry in her highly-acclaimed Wayfarers series opens with a catastrophic accident and a mass funeral. Thousands of people, including our main characters, come together in the wake of this tragedy to weep for those they’ve never even met. And this prologue really kind of sets the tone for the rest of the story. Celebration of life in the midst of death. A community coming together for support and healing.

I’ve seen the Wayfarers books compared with Mass Effect and Firefly, two very popular space opera franchises. And while I can see a few similarities in this book–humans tentatively coexisting with aliens, spaceships serving as homes–Spaceborn Few doesn’t have the sprawling, galactic feel of Mass Effect or Firefly. What it does excel at is homing in on all the minutiae of a person’s everyday life and blowing them up to dramatic proportions. In that respect, it reminded a lot of NBC’s drama series This is Us, complete with all the warm and fuzzy family dramas. These aren’t galaxy-spanning conflicts but microconflicts that don’t extend beyond one person, one family, but are just as meaningful, if not more.

We follow the lives of five characters who reside in the Exodus Fleet (either temporarily or permanently), which is a series of ships that set out from Earth generations ago in an attempt to carve out a new, better chapter for humanity.

Tessa is a mother of two and works at the cargo bay where she keeps track of the goods coming in and out of the Fleet. Her perspective was my favourite, as her interactions with her children, Aya and Ky, are so endearing and nauseating sweet (in a good way). 

Isabel is the oldest character of the group (she has grandchildren!). She’s an archivist who’s playing guide to an alien researcher who has come to visit the Fleet for the first time. I loved their little debates on the differences between human social nuances and alien ones. They serve as a celebration of the best of human culture but also an embracing of the “other.”

Sawyer is in his early twenties and unlike the other characters, he’s a newcomer to the Fleet. He’s come here to trace his family’s roots back to the place where it all really began (post-Earth) and to experience all that the Exodan culture has to offer. And boy, is he ever excited.

Eyas is a caretaker, and her job is to prepare dead bodies and bury them as fertilizer throughout the Fleet’s gardens. It’s a job that she loves but it does make for a lonely life, as many people are confused and repulsed by the idea of being intimate with someone who literally handles death on a daily basis. With Eyas’ POV we also get positive explorations of sex work, which I wholly loved and appreciated.

Kip is a teenage boy and the youngest of the cast. At sixteen he’s already tired of life on the Fleet and wants out badly (cue the Beauty and the Beast lyrics: “I want so much more than they’ve got planned”). Trouble is, he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life once he graduates.

There isn’t much of a plot. And I know some people will physically recoil at the very idea, but let me tell you, I’ve never been more entertained by a story with such a heavy focus on gardening, cooking, corpse-preparing, long distance phone-calling, and other such mundane activities. It’s as domestic as it gets and there’s comfort to be found in that.

Most of all, though, the story made me feel good. About humans. About being a human. About sexuality, relationships, and all the uncertainties that life likes to throw at our feet. Record of a Spaceborn Few is my first glimpse into Becky Chambers’ writing and it sure won’t be the last.

 

Copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Space Opera

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

This week’s topic is space opera!

 

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A-book-I-have-read2Warchild by Karin Lowachee

It kills me that this book isn’t more widely known. Over the course of three books, Karin Lowachee tackles space warfare in a way I’ve never seen before, by swiveling the focus onto the foremost victims of any war: the children. Warchild can be read as a coming-of-age story about an orphaned boy named Jos who gets trained to become an assassin spy. It can also be read as a story of a young survivor suffering from PTSD who finds himself getting used by two opposing factions of a war. Lowachee examines the horrors of conflict, both psychological and physical, with a deft yet unflinching eye. The fact that it also features LGBTQ themes and some of the most complex side characters I’ve ever come across, makes Warchild one of my all-time favourites of any genre.
 

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet has been compared to Firefly and Mass Effect and  been recommended to me more times than I can count. It features interspecies relationships, queer characters, and racial and species diversity. So of course I’ll read it. The only question is when. Sometime this summer, probably, as it seems perfect as a light summer read.

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A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she got something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.
Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses Mother murder a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah has only one lead: the killer also hunts Boots.
On the wrong side of the law, the two women board a smuggler’s ship that will take them on a quest for fame, for riches, and for justice.

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The premise sounds like something straight out of Borderlands, so count me in! This book promises fun space adventures, treasure hunting, and some f/f romance between two interesting characters.

Releases June 26th, 2018

 

Book Haul – March 2018

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My March book haul was the biggest so far this year, mostly because the Canadian customs is annoyingly slow and inconsistent, so books I’d ordered months ago from the UK just now arrived.

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  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
    I confess I haven’t read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet yet, but this was stupidly cheap on Book Depository. And one of my goals in the next couple of months is to read the first two books before the third one drops.
  • Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton
    I’m a sucker for WW2 nonfiction and this caught my eye a year ago but I never got the chance to pick it up.
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
    This took nearly FOUR months to arrive. I’d given it up for dead, said my laments and prayers and got my refund, and then one day it appears out of nowhere in a packaging that looks like something that crawled out of a war zone. Anyway,
    I’ve been meaning to read Mary Renault for years now and I figured one of her standalones would be a good place to start.

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  • Imposter Syndrome (The Arcadia Project 3) by Mishell Baker
    Read it, loved it.
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente I loved the first book so I’ll be slowly going through the rest of the series this year.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
    My first Christopher Moore purchase and it certainly won’t be the last one.

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  • Jade City (The Green Bone Saga 1) by Fonda Lee
    Currently reading through this and absolutely loving it. Look out for a glowing review.

  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
    This one’s a giveaway win. It’s been likened to Orange is the New Black, so colour me interested.

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  • Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
    I’ve never read Staveley but I sampled a bit of his writing from The Art of War anthology, and it turns out the style is kind of my jam, so I’ll be reading this once I finish the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy.
  • The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2) by Brian Staveley
    For some reason I had the first and the third book of the trilogy but was missing the middle one, so I had to remedy that.

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  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
    I couldn’t wait until September for this one. It’s so, so good.
  • Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
    My current mission is to collect every english version of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books (which is my all-time favourite series), and I was lucky enough to find this near-pristine US hardback of Fool’s Errand.

And there you have it. Tell me if you see any of your favourites and any that you think I should read immediately!