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When Traveller Meets Tiptree: The Wayfarers Trilogy by Becky Chambers

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet-small A Closed and Common Orbit-small Record of a Spaceborn Few-small

I love a good science fiction series, though I don’t get to indulge that love very often. But I’ve got some vacation time coming up this month, and I plan to put it to good use. I’ve had to ruthlessly pare down my to-be-read pile to an achievable size (man, that was painful), and only one SF series survived the culling: Becky Chambers Wayfarers trilogy.

There’s been a lot of praise heaped on these books — including making numerous Best of the Year lists, and a Hugo nomination for the second volume, A Closed and Common Orbit — but what’s really drawn me to them has been the intriguing reviews. Niall Alexander at Tor.com called the opening novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, “A genuine joy,” and Publishers Weekly labeled the second “Superb work from one of the genre’s rising stars.” But I think my favorite review came from James Nicoll, who admitted up front that he read the first one expecting a Traveller novel.

I picked it up because, over on Livejournal, Heron61 said:

It’s basically what you’d get if you took Firefly (minus the unfortunate Civil War metaphors) or an average campaign of the Traveller RPG and focused more on interpersonal dynamics and character’s emotional lives, while substantially reducing the level of violence.

Yes, this book reminds me of Traveller… I was more strongly reminded of James Tiptree, Jr.’s short story “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side”… that is, if James Tiptree, Jr. instead of being relentlessly, inexorably depressing, had been a cheerful optimist. The book isn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was a refreshing change of pace.

The third volume, Record of a Spaceborn Few, arrived last week. I’ve been looking for something fun and different — and new — and this series very definitely fits the bill.

All three books are available in trade paperback from Harper Voyager

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (464 pages, $16.99/$7.99 digital, July 5, 2016)
A Closed and Common Orbit (384 pages, $16.99/$9.99 digital, March 14, 2017)
Record of a Spaceborn Few (368 pages pages, $16.99/$11.99 digital, July 24, 2018)

Here’s the back covers for all three volumes.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet-back-small A Closed and Common Orbit-back-small Record of a Spaceborn Few-back-small

Any other suggestions for some recent SF I should add to the list?

6 Comments »

  1. I enjoyed A LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET, and had just started A CLOSE AND COMMON ORBIT when the book disappeared. And I have not been able to find it. I might just have to buy another copy.

    I have to admit, it never would have occurred to me to compare Becky Chambers to Tiptree, and on reflection, I still wouldn’t! Perhaps Tiptree’s “inexorably depressing” mode is too central to her art; or perhaps her sheer momentum. And mystery. (Our book club discussed Julie Phillips’ Tiptree biography — with Julie Phillips! — just the other day, so Tiptree is on my mind.)

    Comment by Rich Horton - August 3, 2018 10:44 am

  2. As for additional recent SF — it’s not fiction, but I have particular reasons to promote Jo Walton’s INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE HUGOS, which is coming from Tor August 7.

    Comment by Rich Horton - August 3, 2018 10:46 am

  3. > Our book club discussed Julie Phillips’ Tiptree biography — with Julie Phillips! — just the other day, so Tiptree is on my mind.

    Rich,

    I envy you that opportunity! Her bio is an extraordinary piece of work, on an fascinating subject.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 4, 2018 10:48 am

  4. > I have particular reasons to promote Jo Walton’s INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE HUGOS, which is coming from Tor August 7.

    I’m really looking forward to that! Is it another collection of Tor.com columns, or is this an original work?

    Comment by John ONeill - August 4, 2018 10:50 am

  5. Tor columns, with some revisions, partiularly, I think, longer looks at one specific book each year.

    Be sure to read the dedication. :)

    Comment by Rich Horton - August 4, 2018 1:19 pm

  6. Wow – a very fine dedication indeed!

    Jo Walton dedication

    Comment by John ONeill - August 4, 2018 4:42 pm


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