The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – Becky Chambers

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within


A set of strangers of different species have each stopped at a planetary waystation for a layover, but are trapped together for a long period, and get to know each other.


My reading of this series is not ideal – the first book and this last one. From what I’ve read, though, and from what I’ve heard of the intervening books, I’m not too sorry about it. Many people seem to love this series, and there are certainly things to like about it. I found this book, though, as with the first one – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – extremely slow going.

This book appears intended to wrap up and intertwine the threads of several of the series’ characters – all of different species. Perhaps due to that, it read to me more like an exploration of those species than a story in itself. We learn heaps and heaps about each species – almost as if Chambers is throwing into this last book all the neat stuff she thought up and hadn’t found a place for until now. It’s xenologically interesting, but doesn’t make for great plot.

The other thing that wore on me – both in this book and to some extent the last – is that all the characters are relentlessly good. They have different opinions, they argue (a little), but they’re all good people trying to do good things. I liked them all, but all good and no bad made for low tension, and, frankly, low credibility. When have you spent a long time with a group of strangers not one of whom has any major bad traits – or even minor ones that get a little annoying? Every character here is endlessly interested in learning about others, reforming their own behaviour, and deeply comprehending others’ viewpoints. I agree with all those things; I think they’re important in the real world. But I also have a hard time suspending my disbelief that everyone would act that way.

Maybe Chambers set out to write an optimistic novel, to counterbalance the grimdark there’s so much of. If so, she succeeded. Unfortunately, optimistic as it is, I also didn’t find it enthralling. It was a pleasant read, but felt very long and slow-moving.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

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