Completed 12/22/2020, Reviewed 12/22/2020
This is the third standalone book in the Wayfarers series. Like the first two books, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, it is a character study. Unlike the first two books, it doesn’t have much of a plot. This is basically a slice of life of five people living on a colony ship. There are some intriguing points that cause all the characters to reflect on their lives and relationships. But the main point of the book is that humanity has learned to live in space and have become basically nice, peaceful, cooperating people and this is the story of a few of them.
The story begins on one of 32 colony ships carrying the remnants of Earth’s population, known as the Exodans. One of its sister ships has blown up. They pick up the bodies. Then life continues on for the characters, all of whom are affected by the disaster. Later, one of the characters is killed accidently, and the body is found days later. This affects all the characters, inspiring more reflection on their situations and choices in life. So you see, not much of a plot. The real story is in the characters.
My favorite characters are probably the more complex. The first one, Eyas, named after a young hawk, is basically a funeral director. She preps the bodies of the dead, holds a ritual ceremony for them with the grieving family, and composts them. This is one of the most important jobs on the ship, as it recycles the deceased to support the living. But after dealing with the influx of bodies from the sister ship, she seeks solace in a brothel, which is a legal business on the ships. She develops a special intimacy with Sunny, the male prostitute with the heart of gold.
My next favorite character was Isobel. She is one of the ship’s archivists. She maintains the records of Earth, the history of the ship, and the present happenings. She is one of the grand dames of the ship and lives with her long-time wife. She maintains an interesting perspective on life and events aboard the ship. In addition, she hosts an alien from the Galactic Council who comes to make observations of the Exodans.
The other characters are good, but less complex. There’s Tessa, a working mom of two who also takes care of her ailing father. Her husband works in space and is not home often. There’s Kip, an angsty teen with a questionable friend who wants to leave the ship and go planet-side. Lastly, there’s Sawyer who grew up on a planet and comes to the ship looking to reinvent himself.
The story is told disjointedly, with each chapter being from the perspective of one of the characters. This threw me at first, feeling like there were too many characters. But about halfway through the book, I realized I really cared about what was going on in each of their lives, even the moody teen Kip.
I give the book four stars out of five. My only complaint with the book is that I felt it took too long to get the hang of the changing perspectives from the different chapters. That with the lack of plot makes for a slow burn. But instead of getting bored, I found myself really loving the characters. I got tied up in their personal lives and how the events of the ship changed their perspectives. It ended up being one of those books that warmed my heart and made me wish it wouldn’t end.