Record of a Spaceborn Few

Becky Chambers

Book cover

The general consensus seems to be that people don’t like this book as much as the previous two installments in the series, “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” and “A Closed and Common Orbit.” I’m glad I didn’t just follow this consensus, as I actually liked it a lot. Probably a little less than the first book, but about equal to, or more than, the second book.

RSF continues in Chambers’ trademark style of comfy hangout books with ensemble casts where pretty much everyone is just doing the best they can even if they fuck up sometimes, and I’m totally here for it. More than the previous two books, this one is very human-centric, with basically only one significant non-human sapient character (who is mostly there as a mirror to reflect us back at ourselves). Partly related to this, I found that the characters in RSF were a little less memorable than in the other books–different species are memorable almost by default, and Chambers handles them very well. On the other side, I thought this book offered something the others didn’t–a portrait of a society, namely, the human Exodan fleet. This was an aspect of Chambers’ lore that I had been interested in since the beginning–a group of idealistic/communal humans who had left the solar system in generation ships to renounce war and build a new way of life. (In my headcanon, the Exodan fleet is Earthseed from Octavia Butler’s books. You’re welcome, Becky Chambers!) Everyone in the book is a part of the Exodan fleet, which is basically a poor cousin to the thriving galactic community. The portrait in the book reminded me a lot of the anarchist society of Anarres in Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed” (and Chambers honors UKL by using her term “ansible” for the FTL communication system)–a realistic blend of idealistic/honorable and crappy. In the earlier books, we were more focused on individual family-type groups, which is also cool, but I love the ethic of Earthseed/Exodans, so I enjoyed reading this one too.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars