Becky Chambers has become a name to watch in Science Fiction. She published her first novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in 2014 after completing it via a successful Kickstarter campaign, which was later picked up by Harper Voyager and released to a much wider readership and received several notable awards. Chambers’ sophomore effort, A Closed and Common Orbit, was released in 2016 again, to wide acclaim. 2018 saw the release of her third, and latest, novel, Record of a Spaceborn Few and it is, again, a must read for readers of the SF genre.
After nearly destroying their planet, humans fled Earth on huge ships created with the hope of finding a new home. Wandering the cosmos for hundreds of years, the Exodus Fleet, harboring the last remnants of Earth’s populations, was ultimately welcomed into the Galactic Commons and took up residence orbiting a sun light-years from Earth. Some of the humans left the ships to create new lives in the GC, while others stayed behind, living their lives, and developing a culture, on the aging fleet. Years later, those still living on the ships are forced to confront difficult questions. Do they stay on board and experience life since they, and all of their ancestors, have they fled Earth? If so, are they attempting to prolong something that has already reached a natural end? Or, do they strike out and create new, uncertain lives on the myriad worlds that might receive them? For those who leave, there is an additional question: who will take their place in the delicately balanced culture they are leaving?
In Record of a Spaceborn Few, Chambers both creates and explores a microcosmic culture, examining it from both the inside and out by telling the stories of those who live there, those moving in, those planning/hoping to leave and those who have come purely to see for themselves how it works (and doesn’t). Like both of her previous novels, Record of a Spaceborn Few might seem to be a bit short on plot. While there are a few dramatic events that occur during the story, it is mostly an account of how people live, strive, thrive and fail on the Exodus Fleet. But what Chambers may not provide in terms of galactic threats and adventurous exploits is more than made up for in the creation of a memorable group of relatable and fascinating people of differing ages, genders, backgrounds and species, which is what made both of her earlier works such standouts. The result is a thought-provoking look at the Exodus Fleet, the Galactic Commons and our own world, which is far more interesting, and in its own way exciting, than the standard Sci-Fi standbys of ray-gun shoot-outs and prolonged space battles.