Writing: 4 Plot: 3 Characters: 5 World building: 5
The third book in Chambers’ Wayfarer series, this volume is the origin story for human introduction into the Galactic Commons. The Fleet is the set of 30 homestead ships that launched the human diaspora from poisoned Earth into the rest of the Galaxy. Many generations later humans have been accepted into the Galactic Commons and dwell planet side with many other (mostly technologically superior) alien species across a wide variety of locations — and yet the Fleet lives on as an active community with a strong culture of family, community, self-reliance (almost) and sharing.
Orbiting around a sun gifted to them by another species, the Fleet lives on and this book follows the storylines of five representative Fleet characters: Tessa, a young Fleet mother questioning her role in evolving Fleet culture; Eyas, a caretaker responsible for respectfully composting human remains and inserting them back into the ecosystem; Isabel, an archivist charged with maintaining all human knowledge and experience; Kip, a youngster lured into bad behavior who is seeking his place in the world; and lastly Sawyer, a planet dweller considering the Fleet as a potential home. Interspersed in the narrative are dispatches sent by Gluh’loloan, a somewhat slimy but very friendly, visiting Harmagian ethnographer who seeks to understand Fleet (and human origin) culture.
While still enjoyable, I found this installment a little weaker than the previous two. While the worlds and cultures and characters are thoroughly depicted and quite interesting, there really isn’t a compelling story line to bring it all together. I’m also a little disappointed at the disparity between the male and female characters — the females are the strong characters while the males are side characters, or hopelessly naive, young and immature. I’ve noticed this in previous Chambers’ books — it’s not a huge problem but I do prefer a little more gender equality!