– goodreads –
From the ground, we stand. From our ships, we live. By the stars, we hope.
I’ve been saving this book for when I’d need a pick-me-up. After a very stressful August and an important exam seemed like the perfect time to crack it open. Initially, I was a bit surprised – it starts with a big tragedy and a lot of death. But then it settles in and it’s exactly the kind of optimistic, thoughtful, quiet sci-fi I wanted.
This is, perhaps, the most slice of life Wayfarers book so far. It follows the lives of Tessa (sister of Ashby from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) and her family; Sawyer, a newcomer looking for a place to belong; Kip, a boy deciding what he wants to do in his life; Isabel, a senior archivist, the host to a Harmagian who wants to study the Exodan way of life; and Eyas, a caretaker of the dead. Their lives are impacted by the tragedy from the prologue, but there’s no real climax to work towards.
And I loved them. I loved the insights into their lives, the ordinary challenges they faced. The setting, the Exodan Fleet, is almost a character of its own. It’s been designed by humans who left the Earth in hope of a better life as a truly equal, almost-utopia of a society where nobody is hungry and everybody has a home. Naturally, it’s not perfect (hence the “almost”), and the book highlights its flaws as well – the resistance to change, the stagnation, the reliance on outside help, it not being a good fit for everyone – but damn do they try. And I can’t pretend I don’t find it sympathetic and admirable.
Was there any future for the fleet that did not involve keeping to the same pattern, the same track, day after day until something went wrong? Was there any day for her that would not involve the same schedule, the same faces, the same tasks? What was better – a constant safeness that never grew and never changed, or a life of reaching, building, striving, even though you knew you’d never be completely satisfied?
There are obvious parallels to be drawn with The Dispossessed. If you’ve read it (and if you haven’t, you should), it’s fun to contrast them – what’s similar, what’s different. Both books explore a future, near-utopian but flawed societies, in different ways.
And I desperately want more.
Recommended to: fans of slice of life, those interested in books that explore different political systems, anyone looking for a pick-me-up or books with good representation
Not recommended to: those who want fast-paced books with a clear plot