Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few?

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chambers continues to make each book in this “series” a standalone that’s tangentially related to the other books. The second book continued with a couple characters from the first book, but otherwise did not interact with them at all. This book is related to the others in that one of the protagonists we follow is the sister of the first book’s captain. It doesn’t appear to have any connections to the second book unless I missed it.

In a way, this book doesn’t have an over-arching plot. Instead, like the movie Pulp Fiction, we have a series of inter-connected vignettes. What ties them together is that they all take place on the Exodan (don’t know how to spell, I listened to the audiobook) ships. As revealed in the previous two books, a long time ago, humanity left Earth and some of them didn’t settle the solar system. Instead, they set off on a bunch of generation ships in search of a new planet. There have been a million books (and some awesome video games – Hate Story, for exmaple) that explore generation ships and all the ways things can in a different direction than the ancestors had planned generations ago. In the Wayfarers universe, these humans have decided to just live on the ships forever.

We follow two men and two women as they decide whether to stay or go. Because the main metaphor in this book can kind of be viewed as what happens to a small town or maybe a less rich country that has to deal with complicated feelings of pride in their own culture and shame at being behind or less desirable. At first I’d been thinking of the Amish, but there isn’t a Rumspringa equivalent in this book. We also have an alien who’s doing a sociological study of the humans and the articles they’re writing open up each section of the book.

On the one hand, by being made up of smaller stories that are only very loosely inter-connected (Isabelle, for example, is almost completely away from the other protagonists until the final section of the book), there isn’t a continuous propulsive force through the book. On the other hand, it does mean that if you’re not enjoying any particular storyline, there are 3 or 4 others to follow and you’ll probably be onto the next one soon.

If you enjoyed the previous two books, this isn’t a necessary read because, as I said, it doesn’t matter because the story doesn’t continue on. But if you enjoyed them, you probably enjoy Chambers’ writing and will enjoy this one, too.

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