Thursday, November 28, 2019

Read-Along: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, Part 3 [END]

I’ve been a little delayed, but today I have the final post for the Read-Along of Becky Chambers’s Record of a Spaceborn Few. The discussion here may include spoilers from the entire book, so be warned.  Sometime in the near future, I plan to post my usual review of the book. Overall, I felt like this was a very peaceful book, largely about good people figuring out their own lives.

Ghuh'loloan's offer of help to reach out to the galactic community in a different way speaks volumes about her thoughtfulness, and how well she's truly learned during her time on the Asteria. What do you think of her suggestions for how to help the Fleet thrive, going forward?

I’m glad that this part of the story, at least, has a relatively happy ending.  I hope that her efforts do help the fleet for the future, and that it remains viable and even grows to be able to contribute to the galactic community.  

Tessa makes her decision, after receiving an unexpected gift of her own ... What are your thoughts on her choice, and on her relationship with George now that we've seen more of him?

I think her choice makes sense, given how traumatized her daughter was by the fleet ship’s destruction.  She lives in a place where Aya can feel safe now. I was a little surprised that George decided to come with them on a permanent basis.  Before, their relationship really felt more like a friendship to me than a couple. That was both because of the distance between them, but also just because of how they interacted with one another.  It looks like that might be shifting towards a more traditional kind of couple relationship. And you never know, maybe George will be a great baker one day. In an odd coincidence, my husband is also baking a new type of bread while I’m typing this. Maybe he and George have some things in common.

Eyas and Sunny build a relationship of a different sort, first when she visits him at home and then when they come up with the outreach programme. How do you feel about this budding new relationship (yes this is a shipping question and no I'm not sorry), and would you visit somewhere like the Asteria if you knew that this help would be offered?

I think they make good friends, and they could certainly try out being something more!  I think their class will be very helpful, not just for potential immigrants but also for tourists and business travelers.  There are so many things about a community that you can’t know from the outside, and that no one would think to tell you. I think that having this kind of a program available, and advertising it, makes the Fleet look much more welcoming to everyone. I typically only travel to places where I think I will feel safe, and a program like this would certainly help to give that impression. 

Time moves on, and Kip grows up, and my heart swells. What are your final thoughts about the changes in him, both before and after returning home to the Fleet?

I knew he was a good kid!  It was nice to see how living outside the Fleet changed his perspective of it, and to see how it began to be a unique heritage that he actually wanted to share with his alien friends.  I was kind of skeptical when Isabelle said she thought Kip should be an archivist, but I think he did really grow into it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Read-Along: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, Part 2

It’s time for the second post in the read-along of Becky Chambers’s Record of a Spaceborn Few.  This post will cover parts 2-4, so beware of spoilers up to there!  A lot happened this time, and I am now no longer expecting any kind of traditional overarching plot. This is entirely a slice-of-life story about living in the Exodan Fleet.  Now, on to the questions:

Sawyer's story comes to a rather abrupt end in these chapters... Were you surprised by his fate? And do you sympathise with his situation, or did he bring that on himself?

I did not see it coming in the slightest.  Even after the narrative said he had died, I thought maybe he was just unconscious, until Kip and his friend overheard about the disposal of his body.  He was a perspective character! They’re supposed to be safe! I feel bad for Sawyer, so yes I did sympathize with him. 

As for how he died, Oats should really have considered that Sawyer was from a planet.  He didn’t have the same kinds of instincts drilled into him as people who grew up in spaceships.  He was upset, and stressed, and I think it was reasonable that he didn’t consider the danger posed by a sealed door in vacuum.  His crew should have taken care of him, and they didn’t.

In general, though, I did see that he was headed for trouble.  The “salvage crew” he joined was really obviously shady, and he just blew past every warning.  “We like to keep our postings off the lists”, the pinhole drive, how the parameters of the job started changing once he could no longer back out.  I expected him to end up arrested, and Eyas would have to speak for him. At the very least, I’m glad she was there to identify him, and to grieve for him.    

It seems as though Tessa is considering leaving the Fleet with her family. Do you think she will? If so, do you think it's the right call for her to make?

Is she? I didn’t pick up that she was making concrete plans, but I could have missed it. I can see how the destruction of the other ship might make one reconsider life in the fleet. Other than that, the fleet seems like a good place, but I also get the sense that it won’t be around forever. 

Kip takes a big step forward in his personal growth after the smash incident, by taking to heart the feelings and the dignity of others instead of only thinking of himself. How much of this change in him do you think will stick, and what are your feelings about Ras after their 'conversation' about what to do?

I don’t think Kip is a bad kid at all, just easily swayed by people who make poor decisions. Ras is not a good friend, but it’s going to be up to Kip to realize that.  It must be frustrating for his parents to be able to see that, and also know that they can’t make Kip realize he has a bad friend. It might help that Kip is going to get Ras into major trouble about this, if he comes fully clean about the smash.  Their friendship may not survive. Regardless, I think these two incidents together might be enough to help him learn how to stand firm against peer pressure.

Isabel and Eyas have also been presented with the possibility of significant change, in their respective stories within this story. Isabel has an opportunity to open doors for the Fleet within the larger galactic community, while Eyas finds herself opening up emotionally in ways she perhaps had never done before (with Sunny, and later when she grieves for Sawyer). What further changes do you see all of this bringing for their own community on the Asteria, and for the Fleet in general?

I feel like what Eyas needs is a private life.  Part of her loneliness, and her feeling of incompleteness in her career, is simply that there is a large part of herself that has no place in her life.  If she had people to go home to, who expected “Eyas the person” and not “Eyas the caretaker”, I think that would relieve some of her dissatisfaction. I feel like that’s what she’s doing, in her kind-of-relationship with Sunny.  He is helping her by creating a place in her life where she can be herself. Maybe she’ll find a way to build that outside of a tryst club.

Isabel’s story might involve a much more dramatic change for the fleet.  I think that the interest that Ghuh’loloan’s bringing to the fleet will ultimately be a good thing.  There are issues with the fleet that need to be addressed, and it’s good that the benefactors want to meet with fleet members to find out what and how.  I hope the end result is positive!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Read-Along: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, Part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a read-along, but now it’s time to get back into the habit!  I’ve joined a read-along of Becky Chambers’s Record of a Spaceborn Few for this November, together with Lisa of Dear Geek Place and a few others.  The schedule is as follows, in case you’d like to join in discussion in future weeks:

Week 1: Friday 8th November, discussing Prologue & Part 1
Week 2: Friday 15th November, discussing Parts 2, 3 & 4
Week 3: Friday 22nd November, discussing Parts 5, 6 & 7

I’ve read and reviewed both The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, and have been looking forward to learning about the Exodus Fleet in Record of a Spaceborn Few. Today, I’m going to answer the Week 1 discussion questions, so beware of spoilers from here on out through Part 1!  To be honest, it took me longer to get into this one, because the point-of-view kept bouncing around between unrelated (or only slightly related) characters.  I’m still enjoying it, though!

1. As with the previous Wayfarer books, this one is driven more by characters and ideas than by high-energy/high-action plot, despite that prologue. If you're new to the series, is this approach one that surprised you, and what do you think of it so far? If you have read the books before, is it something you appreciate?

It didn’t surprise me, since I’m not new to the series.  It did seem a little more meandering than I remember from previous books, though.  In the first, we had the challenging wormhole-making job, and the second had a clear character arc driving the action.  So far, in this one, we’re just following the daily life of a handful of people in the Fleet, and any kind of overarching plot has yet to emerge.  Their daily lives are interesting, I am just hoping for a little bit more to the plot.

2. Sticking with first impressions a bit longer - what do you think of Exodan life (and all that history), and of the way Becky Chambers presents it to the reader, ie. specifically through the lenses of these characters?

I like the idea of the Fleet as a kind of human homeworld. I didn’t feel like I was being info-dumped on as we learned through the eyes of various characters.  It’s a little sad that the young people see it as a dead-end place, I think, because that implies that the Fleet is in decline from which it may not ultimately recover.

3. In addition to the personal perspective on Exodan life, we do get some perspective from 'outside' sources, namely Sawyer and, to a lesser extent, Ghuh'loloan. How do you feel about their particular perspectives on the Exodan Fleet, and do you think these views in particular are important ones to share? If so, why? (Or why not?)

I think it was important to show at least one outsider view, simply so that we as the readers could get a better description of the society through their experiences. Ghuh’loloan shows that some people do care about learning about humanity, which is nice.  Sawyer… I felt kind of bad for him about that fishy pickle sandwich. He has this idealized picture of what the Fleet is, and maybe he needs to calm down for a while. I think it was nice to show the true outsider view (the alien) and the outsider-with-a-connection view (a human who has never been there before).  It’s kind of like showing, for instance, the culture of a Chinese town simultaneously through the eyes of a white American vs. an American of Chinese descent.

4. Politics, technology, gender identity... As before, this is a book that's all about relationships. How they begin, how they stand now, and how they might progress. There's a lot of today's unfurling potential in how Chambers writes her stories and builds her world(s), but notably without a lot of our conflict. Do you think this is a world we can build, or does it feel too good to be true?  

I don’t know if “too good to be true” is exactly how I’d put it.  I mean, the Earth was destroyed and our species is a minor addition to the wider galactic society.  However, I like that the people in her books, generally, are kind. I sometimes feel like there is a lack of kindness in the world today, but I don’t need that lack to be reflected in the stories I read. I hope we can build a world someday where people care about others, where “no one goes hungry, and everyone has a home”.