Read-along: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (week 3)

And too soon the journey is over. It’s the last week of the SciFi Month read-along, and our travellers are ready to go their separate ways. So, let’s not hang about here – Lisa’s asking the questions for this final leg of the discussion … hopefully I don’t have to warn you that there will be SPOILERS for here on out …


Week 3: “Compounded System Failure” to the end

The tension previously hinted at between Pei and Speaker finally comes to a head. What were your thoughts/feelings on their argument? Do you think either of them were in the right regarding their views?

I didn’t really feel one way or the other about their argument. I like both characters, and didn’t really enjoy reading their disagreement, but neither of them seemed right or wrong to me. They just had different feelings about a complex situation that isn’t going to be fixed by either opinion. I could see where both Pei and Speaker were coming from, but honestly, it didn’t feel important enough to the book that I become invested by taking a side.

This reaction was definitely informed by my expectations of Chambers. I’ve read enough of her work now to know that the arguments are rarely the important bit – it’s how people get past their differences of opinion that matters…


And regarding their subsequent conversation, in which an understanding of sorts is reached, how do you feel about that particular resolution? How satisfactory was it for you?

… like this. This kind of resolution is always interesting to me, because neither character has changed their mind, they’ve just made the effort to move around the obstacle so they can continue communicating because circumstances make it impossible not to. In this instance, it enabled them to move on to talk about Pei’s dilemma and Speaker’s thoughts on that turn out to be the very thing Pei needed to hear. So yeah, this was all perfectly satisfactory from my point of view.


We’re treated to a few dénouement-style scenes in closing, where each of the previously stranded travellers (and Ouloo!) stay in contact by way of favours and gifts. Do you have a favourite moment from these chapters?

It’s difficult to choose one – I liked all the wrap-ups. I guess my favourite one has to be Speaker and Tracker’s gift from Roveg and their reactions. Of all of them, this one felt the most momentous, neither sister having ever been able to stand on a planet’s surface without a suit. It just seems like such a fundamental, life-altering thing to experience that for the first time, even if only via a sim.

Pei’s favour to Roveg was two-times awesome, not only ensuring that he was able to see his sons, but also giving him good reason to revisit places on his home world that he might otherwise have been denied access to. (I think Roveg and Speaker are both my favourite characters).

I liked Ouloo’s scene, planting Akarak plants in her garden in her continued efforts to make everyone welcome at the Five-Hop One-Stop. And, while I’m glad that Tupo is OK (not that I thought xe wouldn’t be), I still find xyr mildly irritating, even when xe is doing something lovely for xyr mom.

But Pei’s decision was The Best. I was more upset by the implications of her shimmering that I thought because I did a proper jump for joy when she decided not to go to the creche. And I liked that it was the person she liked least of those she spent time with on Gora, who gave her the nudge that enabled her to make her decision.


And finally, what are your overall thoughts and feelings on the book? Any other scenes/moments you want to highlight that stood out for you?

At some point when reading each of the Wayfarers books, I’ve thought this one is my favourite so far. And I did again while reading this. (I look forward to rereading them all to see which one(s) are my actual favourite(s)). I love Chambers’ aliens and I love that she’s all about her characters and their everyday lives and ‘small’ dilemmas.

If there’s one thing I haven’t really mentioned during this read-along that I’ve enjoyed a lot about The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (and which I enjoyed in the other Wayfarer novels too), it’s the food. Chambers’ writes great future food. I like that for all the tech – nanobots and the like – space food hasn’t been reduced to pills or patches in her universe, but is still a necessity and the thing that brings people together around a table. This feels particularly important at the Five-Hop One-Stop, where Ouloo works so hard to make food for everyone, using it as a way to welcome, to reassure and to include.

And let’s not forget that a unanimous horror of the human food, cheese, brought our characters a little closer together when they first found themselves stuck together on Gora.



One comment

  1. We had very different thoughts on this part of the book! Pei was far and away my favourite character and I found her plotline the most compelling, so I was totally on her side in her argument with Speaker. (I don’t feel Speaker was well-served by Chambers here, as I feel like there are more compelling arguments she could have made, but they came out as incoherent). I also had a lot of thoughts on Pei’s shimmer, which I’ve rambled about over on my blog – but in short, as someone who’s usually violently in favour of women choosing not to have children in fiction, I found myself surprisingly disappointed by her choice. (And how on earth are the Aeluon still going??)

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