Record of a Spaceborn Few is the third book in the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers. This instalment follows a new set of characters in a different place in the universe. I loved the first two books in this series (although I did find A Closed and Common Orbit to be a little heavy-handed at times) and plan to keep reading them. Chambers’ art of focusing on the universal themes of friendship, loyalty and compassion in a futuristic, sci-fi world is heart-warming to read.
The first two Wayfarers books had little plot and focused more on the characters. Record of a Spaceborn Few followed in these footsteps and then some. What is this book about then? It is about people growing and learning and trying to find their place in the universe. We follow several characters who are all linked to each other in some way, although they do not all meet each other. Each character is struggling with the concept of who they are and what they want out of life. We grow with them as they make mistakes, try new things, meet new people, and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to belong.
Because the characters in this book were all brand new to me, it took me a while to get invested. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character and as these characters didn’t interact with each other that much, I felt like I didn’t know them until about halfway through. Once I hit the halfway mark and understood the journeys that these characters were on, I settled into the flow of the book and found comfort in the world that Chambers has created.
I love reading about the differing ways in which societies have evolved and how they choose to live in this universe. I will say that the utopian socialist society of the Exodus Fleet was a little idealistic and naive, but I chose to overlook that. The types of jobs that people could have in this future was delightful to read about though. The idea of caretakers, who dispose of the dead by turning them into compost which is then used to grow plants, was a beautiful concept. It was explored with a realistic tenderness that was lovely to read. The caretaker who we follow grapples with how she is revered by her society but is consequently left feeling isolated. That feeling of being happy with one’s solitude, but also wanting to be able to have connections, is universally relatable.
Record of a Spaceborn Few did not enchant me like The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit did and I think this was because I did not get to know the characters well enough. The first two books in the series dwelled on the found family trope, which is something I adore. Whilst there are aspects of that in this book, it did not form the basis of the novel. I hold both The Long Way and A Closed and Common Orbit in great esteem. While I enjoyed Record of a Spaceborn Few, it did not quite live up to its predecessors for me.
Although I was not as attached to the characters in this book as I was to those in the first two books, it still gave me a feeling of warmth and hope. Above all, it reminded me that all people have their own lives and a unique view of the world. We’re all trying to find out what our place in this world is and who we want to be. If we all extended a bit more empathy, perhaps we could put more good into this world.