In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.
We’ve been taught to expect our novels to be predominantly narrative in nature, but Becky Chambers is here to say that there’s another way. As I wrote in my review of what is by leaps and bounds the most hectic episode of the Wayfarers series so far, the plot of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet appeared almost an afterthought when all was said and done. If that proved a problem for you, A Closed and Common Orbit, with its still slighter storyline, would have been far from the follow-up you fancied—yet in its doubling down on the close, character-focused moments that made its self-published predecessor such a personable pleasure, A Closed and Common Orbit was, in its hearteningly humane way, no less of a success than Chambers’ multiple award-nominated darling of a debut.
Record of a Spaceborn Few is at least as remarkable, yet regrettably, isn’t going to win over anyone who’s been underwhelmed by these books before. Indeed, it’s never been clearer than it is here that this is a series about people—people as opposed to the things that happen to them, assuming anything happens to them at all. To be sure, a few things do in Record of a Spaceborn Few—there’s a tragic mishap at the outset, and an equally disastrous accident as the text progresses—but the third of Chambers’ loosely-connected Wayfarers works is only interested in events insofar as these events affect the five folks that are the focus of this practically pacific work of fiction.