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  • Amazing end to a wonderful series

    “WE ARE NOT ALL IN THE SAME BOAT. WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME STORM. SOME ARE ON SUPER-YACHTS. SOME HAVE JUST ONE OAR.” Damian Barr, British writer, columnist and playwright “Thank you for your patience. We are all in this together.” – “The galaxy and the ground within” Characters and their species: Ouloo, Tupo Laru Roveg Quelin Speaker, Tracker Akarak Pei Aeluon This is the last book in this wonderful series – and I think it is my favourite of the lot. It differs from the others in having no humans among the main characters, and also in having most of the action taking place in a very small space, in the Five-Hop-One-Stop guest house, on one barren planet, Gora. Ouloo is the proprietor of the guest house situated at an intergalactic crossroads, where multiple species stay a day or two, waiting for their turn in the wormhole queue to their destination. She is expecting three guests for a short stay, but when the satellite and communications array supporting Gora unexpectedly crash, Roveg, Pei and Speaker are unable to leave and are trapped with Ouloo and her teenager Tupo. The set-up initially brought to my mind a joke – ‘three aliens walk into a bar …’ or an Agatha Christie style murder/mystery – all the suspects (strangers) trapped together in a house … (There isn’t a murder though part of me kept expecting one, but one character does come very close to death). However, the book is so much more than a cursory glance at the set-up might suggest. The story is entirely character driven. Each main character (except Tupo) gets their own chapter in each section of the book. The narration is in the third person, and each section is started with an update from the Goran Orbital Cooperative Info Team on the situation re the satellite system. All the characters are unrepresentative of their species: Ouloo lives apart from other Laru to give her child a maximum exposure to other species and cultures; Roveg is exiled from the Quelin homeworld; Pei is (covertly) dating a human; and Speaker communicates with other species on behalf of Akaraks who cannot. All of them see themselves as open to, and appreciative of, other species and cultures, but each still retains some of the inbred biases of their own species: the Other vs the Us. “Quelin fear outsiders because we use them as scapegoats for the things we fear about ourselves. We bar cultural exchange because change frightens us. Whereas your people …’ He looked at her (Speaker).‘You fear outsiders because they gave you no choice in the change they forced upon you.’” “There were Quelin, and there were aliens. Quelin were people. Aliens were … aliens. They were almost like people, but not quite, and never would be. Never could be. You could talk to an alien, and trade with an alien, but aliens were not like you. You should be polite to them. You should respect the laws you shared. You should not be their friends.” “(Pei) had no idea when exactly the Aeluon taboo against interspecies relationships had taken root in mainstream society, only that it was older than the GC and as much of a given as rain on a winter’s day.” One of the most telling sequences, was when Tupo sang the sapient song: “‘What are the Five Pillars?’ Speaker asked. Tupo burst into energetic song. ‘Water for drinking, oxygen for breathing—’ ‘Tupo—’ Ouloo said pleadingly. The child continued singing the bouncing tune, despite xyr mother rubbing her face with her paw. ‘Sunlight to make life go! Protein for building, carbon for bonding, that’s how all sapients grow!’ ‘It’s the basic ingredients all sapient species need,’ Pei explained. ‘I thought everybody knows that,’ Tupo said. ‘Don’t you know the song?’ Speaker was quiet. ‘I don’t,’ she said at last. ‘Because it doesn’t apply to me.’” For me, whether you are racist, sexist etc, does not depend on how you initially might (subconsciously or not) judge others, but on how prepared you are to change your opinions. We all – anti-racist, feminist, pro-LGBT+, or archconservative – have our prejudices. It is whether we are able to rise above them or not that counts. And this is what the aliens also come to discover about themselves. The story is one of personal development – and so beautifully and sensitively done. And the ending – it had me in tears. Each character gives to another a present from their soul, something than means so much to the recipient, so much more that they could have ever felt possible. I love every bit of this series, and especially this book. The characters, the language, the descriptions … I cannot recommend this series highly enough. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by either the author nor by the publisher.

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  • Loved it

    Becky Chambers is one of my favourite authors. I always struggle to say what happened in the book but that's what's so great, they're just amazing stories about people interacting. SO GOOD

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