Soft Sci-Fi, Aliens & Overcoming Difference // The Galaxy, and The Ground Within

The Galaxy and The Ground Within. Soft Sci-Fi, Aliens and Overcoming Difference.

It’s difficult to explain how much I love the Wayfarers series with their soft character-driven books that talk about life in the stars, aliens, and a far off future while remaining profoundly human and beautifully relatable. I’m sorry to be saying goodbye to the series with this final book, but The Galaxy, and The Ground Within was a wonderful finale. I’m so excited to see what Becky Chambers does next, and I can’t recommend this series enough to people who like their sci-fi with a lot of heart.

book cover.

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.


As I expected from the series, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is an incredibly slow-paced book that focuses intensely on a group of characters and their lives. I’d say the Wayfarers series are truly slice-of-life books in a sci-fi setting. There is no strong plot, although things do happen, it’s much more of a character study. This book is perfect for people who usually find sci-fi a little too complicated and large scale. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a comforting read that tackles harsh realities while remaining optimistic about what we can do to be better.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is such a beautiful book. I’ve never read anything quite like this series, and I wasn’t disappointed with this instalment. I can’t quite explain how much I love it; there’s a special place in my heart for these books. I love how it focuses on interpersonal conflict and growth; you get a deep connection to the characters and their wellbeing. The difficulties they have relate strongly to real-world issues, the book gives new perspectives to common discussions through a sci-fi setting.

One of the things I was so excited about was that the cast is made up of aliens. I’m a big fan of aliens in books, especially when they have distinct cultures and aren’t necessarily humanoid. The previous book in this series, Record of a Spaceborn Few, almost completely revolved around humans, so it was a nice to have a shift in focus here. Despite humans not being a major part of this book, the conflicts are incredibly relatable and link strongly to human experiences.

The main themes of this book revolve around cultural misunderstandings, knowledge, and acceptance. I don’t want to go into incredible detail here because part of the fun is seeing the character’s development. A group of very different people are trapped together, forcing them to confront their misconceptions about each other. It strongly links to discussions of cultural understanding in our society. It tackles how a lack of knowledge breeds misunderstanding, how stereotypes always have a larger context, and how cultural history strongly impacts present-day behaviour. I can’t say enough about how much depth there is to this book. There are so many touching moments, so many important discussions, so much hope.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to people who require a strong plot, but for those of you that love character-focused books, the whole series is an absolute delight.

CW: xenophobia, illness, injury, minor medical content, confinement, genocide, minor vomiting

Recommend for: people who love character-focused books, people who want hopeful books that tackle serious discussions, people want emotional slow-paced sci-fi, people who don’t usually like sci-fi because they’re too setting focused

(Thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing an advance readers copy in exchange for an honest review)

About The Author

author photo.

Becky Chambers is a science fiction author based in Northern California. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning Wayfarers series, which currently includes The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, and Record of a Spaceborn Few. Her books have also been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, among others. Her most recently published work is To Be Taught, If Fortunate, a standalone novella.

Becky has a background in performing arts, and grew up in a family heavily involved in space science. She spends her free time playing video and tabletop games, keeping bees, and looking through her telescope. Having hopped around the world a bit, she’s now back in her home state, where she lives with her wife. She hopes to see Earth from orbit one day.

Get this book

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is out of the 18th of February in the UK! It’s a great time to pick the series up!

If you want to remember to check out this book you should add to Add to Goodreads!

You can get this book from major book sellers such as Blackwells and Waterstones.

I’d recommend checking out your local indie bookshop! If you’re in the UK you can use to support them, or which is available in the US too.

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