Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Publication date: 24 July 2018
Genre: Science fiction
Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This review is spoiler-free for Record of a Spaceborn Few, as well as the other books in the series.
Becky Chambers is one of my absolute favourite authors and I adore her books. Record of a Spaceborn Few was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, and I must say that it did not disappoint.
Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.
Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.
Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.
Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.
When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:
What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?
The thing I love so much about her books is the wonderful world building. For the first time in her Wayfarers series, she truly focuses on humans and the Exodus Fleet, their culture, and how they interact with each other and those who choose to leave. Readers may recall that when mankind left Earth, they travelled to the stars in a fleet of ships — many humans have since left the Exodus Fleet, but many still remain onboard those ships. We’ve dealt with human characters in the Wayfarers books before, but always in interactions with other species and beings. Spaceborn Few is unique among Chambers’ books due to this fact — there’s only one alien species in pretty much the entire book, and she’s very much an observer. Chambers gives us a glimpse into life in the Exodus Fleet, using her talent for world building and creating beautiful and unique cultures to weave together a tale of everyday life of the humans who remain in the Fleet.
What I loved about Spaceborn Few is that there’s really not much in terms of plot — the book is essentially a snapshot of the characters’ lives. I cannot think of another author who could possibly pull this off better than Chambers herself. While there are defining points within the narrative — the book deals with the aftermath of a terrible accident years after it happens — it is really about how people have decided to live their lives. It’s a book about family and culture and holding onto or rediscovering your roots. What could be more beautiful than that?
The characters in Spaceborn Few, like in her other books, are so incredibly relatable and memorable. Each represents a different aspect of human life among the stars, and it is those who uphold the culture of the Fleet that were my favourites. Elyas and Isabel both have beautiful stories, but also personify the culture of the Exodus Fleet. Elyas, who is probably my overall favourite, conducts the funeral rites for the citizens of the Fleet. In a culture in which nothing is wasted, she ensures the dead return to the soil to fuel the future. Isabel, an archivist, records and collects the Fleet’s history and conducts ceremonies to celebrate births of new citizens. Although I loved every single character in this book — a rarity for me, especially as it has six POV characters — these two played such beautiful roles within the narrative and had wonderful relationships with those around them.
Record of a Spaceborn Few, along with her other novels, is a book that is already very special to me. I’m confident that you’ll love it if you enjoyed Chambers’ first two Wayfarer books. As always, she gives such wonderful insight and commentary on racism, gender, equality, and cultural values. If you haven’t picked up any of her books yet, what are you waiting for?
If you’d like to buy Record of a Spaceborn Few? You can purchase it at the following sites (affiliate links):