Read-along: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (week 2)


The schedule for this SciFi Month read-along can be found over at Dear Geek Place.

It’s week two, we’re two-thirds of the way through, I’m asking the questions, so let’s talk!

As always, SPOILERS from here on out…


Week 2: “Attempted repairs” to “Compound System Failure”

Each of Ouloo’s three guests is in a predicament: Speaker is separated from her sister, Roveg is potentially going to be late for his appointment, and Pei has begun her shimmer… What do you make of these small crises? And any predictions for how things might turn out for our travellers?

I like the lack of planet-shattering crisis and drama that I now know to expect from Chambers. These are all problems that will have an impact on the lives of the characters experiencing them, however, and they’re important for that reason. Speaker’s separation from Tracker is worrying because her sister’s health isn’t great – we can empathise very readily with fretting for a loved one. Roveg facing being late for an appointment because of circumstances beyond his control – we’ve all been there.

Pei’s crisis is possibly the only one I can’t truly empathise with. I can appreciate it from a theoretical point of view, but as reproduction is something I have some control over in my life, I am more confused than anything that she doesn’t also have the option just not to bother getting her egg fertilized at all. I get it – it’s a rare event, and she won’t have to be responsible for the gestation or upbringing of her offspring … but still, she could just … not. Couldn’t she?

When it comes to predictions, I don’t really have any. I have hopes: I hope Roveg makes his appointment. I hope Tracker is OK when Speaker gets back to her. I hope Pei makes a decision that she is happy with.


Do you have any thoughts to share on the GC’s treatment of the Akarak people?

Yeeaaahhh. Is it just me, or is this a bit too black and white? It’s terrible, don’t get me wrong, and I found it interesting from the differing timescales angle (Akaraks being so much shorter lived than others in the GC). I could also empathise with the Akarak Gathering deciding that enough was enough and breaking off negotiations. But I also felt that it was quite heavy-handed. I’m already totally onboard with the awesomeness of the Akarak people – insular, small, methane-breathing, short-lived, specialists with no home world and no organised system of government – without their being presented as the victims of an insensitive Galactic Commons.

It also felt … shoved in. We’ve been following the travellers at close quarters, then suddenly we’re given this short, sharp, wide-angle to explain something that the author couldn’t perhaps work into conversation. Yes, I see that it’s Roveg searching for more information on Akarak history and culture, but I, personally, didn’t need it. Sure, it explains things, but actually, I think I’d have been happy not learning this. It just makes me feel like I’m being pushed into feeling sympathy for Speaker and Tracker. Like I couldn’t be trusted to feel for them on my own.

(And yes, I know I said I wanted to know absolutely everything about Speaker and her people … I changed my mind, Okay?)


Let’s talk about Tupo’s Natural History Museum. Actually, let’s talk about Tupo more generally – what are your feelings about the adolescent Laru?

Honestly, I’m not super fond of Tupo. Sulky, changeable adolescents aren’t particularly interesting. But I did love xyr approach to the natural history of Gora and I share xyr passion for both rocks and cake. I also appreciate Ouloo’s intentions in raising her child in a place where xe will meet many species and learn of many cultures. I may find Tupo mildly unappealing now, but I think xe will be a very cool adult.


Chambers is very good at capturing small but meaningful moments. Do you have any favourites so far?

OK, this was a completely selfish question. I just wanted a space to talk about my favourite moment in this week’s section:

“Did you see people flashing their lights last night?”

“Oh,” Pei said, her inner eyelids blinking. “I saw some lights on the horizon, but I thought it was just … power trying to come back on. Or something.”

Ouloo stuck out her tongue in the negative. “That was on purpose. I don’t know who started it. I saw someone’s lights flash, and then I saw someone else do the same in reply, so I turned my lights on and off four times, and then we just … did that for a while.”

This. This gave me all the feelings. People flashing their lights in the darkness just to let others know that they are there. I don’t know why it gets me the way it does, but I can see this so vividly in my mind, and it makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time.



Looking forward, as ever, to reading everyone’s else’s thoughts and feelings!




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