Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers // Book Review

Friends, it’s with a heavy heart that I write this book review. Truly because while I truly enjoyed reading Record of a Spaceborn Few, I was saddened by the fact that this wasn’t an instant favorite of mine.

Here’s more about Record of a Spaceborn Few

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.

Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.

Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.

When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:

What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

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My thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Becky Chambers and I’ve read almost everything she’s written (aside from whatever short stories and articles she may have written on the Internet). But from my count, I’m pretty much up-to-date with all her books. There’s something so cosmically fantastic about her reads. Perhaps because it’s not solely about people in space or robots meeting each other, but that deeper emotional connection that draws me into her books every single time.

However, I found myself a little bit bereft with Record. I wanted to like it way more than I did by the end. Oh, it’s still a deeply enchanting story with intriguing characters living in a space station-style ship that took the place of Earth a long time ago. But it didn’t have the extra glow of magic, action, and adventure that made A Long Way and Close and Common instant favorites of mine.

But if you need to complete the series like me and on your way to the final book, I would recommend it. The book takes place in the final moments that A Long Way… happens and while it doesn’t feature any of the crew from that book, it does share a different kind of existence among the stars. I think I’ve finally accepted that this series will not take place all on the Wayfarer’s ship, but within the same world. Ok, I can live with that.

Instead of it being a crew of people who want to be on the same spaceship as each other, this one is a group of people who have lived and died generations over in this one spaceship. It’s big enough to fit an entire society and it’s been floating in space ever since its escape from Earth. It reminded me a lot of Battlestar Galactica except without the vicious androids coming after humans to destroy their very existence. Instead, it’s more about the mundane lives they lead and how one particular event changes the course of their lives from then on out.

One of the major themes of this book is the discussion of existence. I feel like this theme is very close to Becky Chambers’s heart since it makes its way into many of her works. From To Be Taught to even the discussions between Mosscap and Dex on how important existence is, it’s something that you see weave itself throughout her novels and Record is no exception. And while I do love a philosophical discussion on our existence and what it means to die, it ended up triggering my anxiety a little too much and I spent some time sitting and trying not to have a full blown anxiety attack.

However, if this doesn’t bother you like it does me, then you’ll welcome these discussions. It’s the questions we all ask ourselves at one point or another and it’s poignant when it’s written in a sci-fi story. I mean, the story follows four people who’s lives have always been in space and wondering what it all means definitely should come up every once in a while.

Let’s discuss the characters for a moment while we’re here. This story has four unique perspectives. I thought each of these characters brought something different to the table and coming from unique backgrounds whether by age, by occupation, by identity, you see their seemingly separate lives come together towards the end. I think that’s one of the best benefits of Becky Chambers’s writing; you meet characters that would normally never associate with each other, but through some strange and not-so-strange circumstances, their lives intertwine with each other. I guess you can say that their existence feels more relatable once they meet people who can associate with them. The humanity of their lives is what brings them together and while the event that brings them together is tragic, they become better human beings than they were.

However, the only issue I had with this book is its lack of movement. It felt passive. It felt character-driven. There wasn’t enough movement in the story to compel you continue reading. And while I absolutely loved the existential discussions Becky Chambers brings to all of her stories, this didn’t thrill me the way her other books do. It felt exactly as its title suggests; a record of a spaceborn few.

But don’t let that hinder you from reading the book. Because in the end, it’s quite a story and well worth the read. If I knew this was a more character-driven story when I first went into it, I might have approached it differently.

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