Gora is a planet without resources, its only use is a stopover for interplanetary travel. The Five-Hop One-Stop is one such place for long distance travellers to rest and refuel. Run by a Laru and her child, it’s not the most glamourous of stops but it will do for the three travellers who choose it this one day. Until something goes wrong in the sky above and they are grounded, forced together, three very different alien species with nothing to do.

This was so lovely. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within introduces my favourite bunch of Becky’s characters yet. If you are new to the Wayfarers series, each story is sort of standalone but set in the same universe, with some overlap of characters or events. In this case, one character is in a relationship with someone from the first book, and does mention what happens, so ideally, they should be read in order unless you only want to read one. But why would you do that?!

What did the Akarak think was going to happen here? They were stuck in a hab dome filled with cakes and blooming hedges, not crash landed on an asteroid or venting oxygen into space.

The Laru are long-necked hairy creatures with floppy limbs and my brain went straight to alpacas when imagining them, especially with Topu’s shaggy hair falling in xyr eyes. Young Laru don’t decide on a gender until they’re ready and Topu is a sullen adolescent who starts to take interest in their guests. Ouloo is a mother hen figure, wanting everyone’s needs to be met, making sure everyone has snacks they like and facilities that suit their species.

Ouloo appeared to have come straight out of the same mould as her predecessors – a champion for multispecies life, someone who dove headlong into the melting pot and was loving every minute of it.

Stuck at the Five-Hop are three species who would usually have very little reason to mingle. This book is all about being accommodating to cultural differences, mending bridges instead of conflict and many acts of kindness. It’s warm and cozy and exactly the Wayfarers book we need right now. I found myself welling up repeatedly at the kindness of it all.

The Akarak are considered a species best avoided, small and unable to breathe oxygen they are confined to their specialised suits when planetside. They keep their distance and so does everyone else, but when we learn the reasons for this, it’s heart-breaking. Speaker lives on board her ship with her twin, Tracker. Speaker’s limbs don’t work as they should and Tracker’s lungs are damaged from illness. Together they are one, they don’t spent time apart, except for short stays at stops like the Five-Hop.

The Quelin are generally xenophobic, keeping their people away from the influence of other species. Roveg is an exile, the jewels removed from his exoskeleton mark him out as such. He is used to being looked at with disgust or shame. He’s in a hurry to be somewhere, the delays causing him anxiety, yet he still has time to share culinary delights with his fellow travellers.

The orbital calamity still in progress wasn’t the thing making him quietly panic – or at least, not the primary thing. No, the thought making his frills twitch and his spiracles widen was: Am I going to be late?

Pei is a captain in the military and the Aeluon have a law against interspecies relationships. The law makes sense to her, in a way. She has a secret but she is increasingly wanting to break free from it.

Yet over the space of a few days, these five people start to share their lives and aspects of their cultures with each other. They learn to see different sides of the stories they think they know, or maybe that they can just agree to disagree. At least the snacks are good.

What a strange day it was, she thought. She’d had a fancy meal with a Quelin, told an Aeluon to fuck off, and was now on her way to teach a Laru how to make her mother’s custard recipe.

The first edition end-papers will make sense when you get to the end. OMG what a beautiful ending, the little epilogues packing a punch. I’m sad that this is the end for this series, there’s not been a single book I haven’t adored. To think I nearly didn’t give it a chance at the start because I thought space operas weren’t my thing! At least we have her Tor novellas to look forward to…

Someone had worked hard on this place, someone who substituted love for money whenever the latter ran short.


ATY: 29. A book that you consider comfort reading

Goodreads | Amazon* | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s* | Bookshop.org*

*indicates an affiliate link