Week 3 of our Sci-Fi Month Read Along is here, and we’ve had a few surprises in this week’s chapters!
Claire Rousseau is our host this week as we discuss “The Last War” to “October 25“, and as always, there will be major spoilers below!
There is a lot of focus on some of the different alien races in this section, from Dr Chef recounting the story of his people’s decline and Sissix introducing Rosemary to her families, to the surprise visit from the Aeluons and the much less welcome search by the Quelin. What are your thoughts on the various beliefs systems we encounter? Does anything specific pique your interest more than the rest?
I think it’s interesting that, in this section in particular, we’re getting to explore not only more varied alien culture, as with Sissix and her families, but also the less pleasant aspects of some of them. Not everything about a foreign culture will be enjoyable, after all – this is true of some of our own as well. It’s nicely foreboding given that we’re coming up on the end of the Wayfarer’s journey… And that’s all I’ll say on that front here. *Grin*
What piques my interest the most, though, is definitely the Aandrisk culture we get to learn about. I can understand Rosemary’s difficulties in reconciling what she considers to be the proper way to raise children with the way an Aandrisk would handle it, but at the same time it’s hardly cruel or coldhearted, when you really think about it. It’s practical, which is caring in a different way. It would probably have been really easy to mess up here and paint the Aandrisk as uncaring, and maybe that’s still a matter of opinion, but I think Becky Chambers really proves herself as a writer skilled enough to write this kind of thing well.
Ashby gets the chance to give Pei a tour of his ship and introduce her to his crew, meanwhile Jenks and Lovey decide not to risk transferring the AI into a body just yet, and Rosemary initiates a relationship of sorts with Sissix. Were you happy to see any of these developments, or not so fussed?
Definitely happy! I love a good relationship drama, and I think all of these ones are being handled really well. Being able to introduce Pei to his crew and have her on his ship (in his home, basically) is obviously something Ashby’s wanted for a long time, and it’s sweet to see them together in that situation – even if they still need to be careful about it, which is understandable… As for Lovey and Jenks, I’m glad they’re being sensible about the body kit, to be honest. It’d be lovely to see them actually able to be together physically, but not so much if it’s at the expense of their security for the rest of their lives.
Now, Rosemary and Sissix. THIS made me happy. The whole conversation scene before that metaphorical curtain falls left me so sympathetic for Sissix, who clearly wanted so badly to just accept Rosemary’s offer and *ahem* get on with it – but huge amounts of points to Chambers, again, for writing this scene with so much care. Casual fling or not, any kind of relationship needs communication, and it needs to be built carefully or not at all, in my opinion. Yet none of that detracts from how sweet these two are together! I definitely loved this part of the book, no question.
Cloning technology exists and is used in many sci-fi universes, but the GC does not look kindly on it and it is abomination to the Quelin. Did the reveal of Corbin’s nature change your view of the character?
It certainly did. Something that never fails to push my empathetic rage button in stories is seeing a character suffer abuse, no matter the form it takes. I’ve never been physically assaulted, thank god, but it was the same with Corbin’s surprise imprisonment and his treatment at the hands of the Quelin. It’s an awful ordeal, there’s no question of that, and it absolutely changed my view of Corbin as a character to sympathise with. That’s not to say he isn’t still an unpleasant person, of course – nobody changes so completely overnight – but the exchange between him and Sissix when she arrives to take him home, and his manners afterward, show that this has absolutely changed things for Corbin. He might never be sweetness and light, but hopefully it’ll have opened his eyes to the way he was before and let him mend his ways.
Each chapter told a different and fairly self-contained story, without any big cliffhangers from one to the next. How did you feel about the pacing of the story so far? Are you satisfied with how long the long journey is taking or are you impatient for the crew to finally get to their destination and do some tunnelling?
As this is my second read-through of the book, it’s a bit tricky to answer that now, heh! But on the first time out, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the pacing and the narrative style of this book. I had expected more of an action-fest, when what we’ve actually got is more of a character study. In those cases you really need a cast of very interesting characters and a well-built world for them to live in or your story’s going to fall flat, and I think we can safely say that’s not an issue here! It’s all holding up really well on a reread for me, too, which is another big point in its favour. So, rather than being impatient, I’d say I’m greatly anticipating the final chapters!
On that note, I will sign off and get back to reading! *Grin*
Next week brings the hosting duties home to me for the final part of this Read Along, and I can’t wait to see how you all react to the ending! *Rubs hands gleefully* See you next Friday!