SF Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few (audio book)

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Title: Record of a Spaceborn Few
Author: Becky Chambers. Read by Rachel Dulude
Publication Info: Harper Audio, 2018 11 hours 41 minutes. First published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2018. 359 pages.
Source: Library digital resources
Publisher’s Blurb:
Brimming with Chambers' signature blend of heart-warming character relationships and dazzling adventure, Record of a Spaceborn few is the third standalone installment of the Wayfarers series, set in the sprawling universe of the Galactic Commons, and following a new motley crew on a journey to another corner corner of the cosmos—one often mentioned, but not yet explored.

Return to the sprawling universe of the Galactic Commons, as humans, artificial intelligence, aliens, and some beings yet undiscovered explore what it means to be a community in this exciting third adventure in the acclaimed and multi-award-nominated science fiction Wayfarers series, brimming with heartwarming characters and dazzling space adventure.

Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way.

But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. While the Exodans take great pride in their original community and traditions, their culture has been influenced by others beyond their bulkheads. As many Exodans leave for alien cities or terrestrial colonies, those who remain are left to ponder their own lives and futures: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination? Why remain in space when there are habitable worlds available to live? What is the price of sustaining their carefully balanced way of life—and is it worth saving at all?

A young apprentice, a lifelong spacer with young children, a planet-raised traveler, an alien academic, a caretaker for the dead, and an Archivist whose mission is to ensure no one's story is forgotten, wrestle with these profound universal questions. The answers may seem small on the galactic scale, but to these individuals, it could mean everything.

My Review:
Just to get the basics out of the way, the book is fully engaging, and the narration by Rachel Dulude is fantastic, with distinct voices consistently delivered. 

This book felt a little different from the first two in the series, lacking a single strong narrative as we track several largely unrelated characters through a time period without any major crisis. Instead, we are part of these peoples' lives as they face personal crises large or small, make life-changing or -sustaining decisions, and interact with their environment.

That makes it sound like it's not much of a story, and in some ways it's not the edge-of-your-seat tale that at least parts of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is, for example. I commented in my review of that book that a lot of the story swings on relationships, and this book is even more of an exploration of what it is to be human and part of a community. That exploration, however, is well worth reading, and the science fiction setting makes it fun and adds dimensions that a purely realistic setting wouldn't (consider, for instance, how the aliens who were out there first see us).

The nature of the book, following the lives of so many characters, made it a little challenging at times to keep track of the audio book. It helped that a) Chambers titled each chapter with the name of the character it follows (so once I got them all straight in my head I was good), and b) I finally noticed I could bookmark spots in the audio book, as well as access the TOC, so I could go back to confirm who people where if I was confused.

My Recommendation:
I continue to heartily recommend the whole Wayfarers series, and am eagerly awaiting the next book, which is coming out soon. Maybe I'll get that one as text, not audio, just to see how the writing style feels without the narrator's interpretation.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Record of a Spaceborn Few from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  



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