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”.

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