The first book in a science fiction series.
Publication year: 2016
Running time: 15 hours and 41 minutes
Narrator: Patricia Rodriquez
This is not an action adventure sci-fi. There are no galaxies in peril, no universes on the brink of destruction. But it does have the spaceship Wayfarer and her crew, who are doing their job: creating wormholes which are used as highways for spaceships. And the crew is great! Four humans and three aliens, who have to live and work very closely together and so like each other… mostly. I’ve seen this book described as a “feel-good” book and that fits; most of the people get along well and do their best to be civil with each other. Even governments aren’t just greedy and evil 😉 but made up of people.
Wayfarer’s captain Ashby Santoso needs a certified clerk who can deal with various legal stuff for the ship. Despite the objections of one of his crew, he hires Rosemary Harper who has just graduated.
Rosemary’s excited and nervous because she’s going away from Mars for the first time. She also has a secret which has forced her to falsify her name and leave all of her family behind. Life aboard a spaceship isn’t as hard as she feared, though, because everyone is making her feel welcome. Well, everyone except Artis Corbin. Wayfarer’s engines use algae to move and Corbin is the ship’s algaeist. He doesn’t have anything against Rosemary as a person, but he does object to having on board a person who might put everyone in danger through her ignorance. However, he does have a beef with the ship’s pilot Sissyx. And he just doesn’t like people.
Ashby’s human but instead of a gung-ho mercenary he’s a pacifist, like many humans in this world. He’s called by his first name, rather than “captain”. He’s still responsible for everyone and everything. He also has a non-human lover off-ship so there’s no romantic subplot centering on him.
In fact, this book pretty much does away with many of the elements I don’t like in SF, such as the least professional person aboard being a woman, awkward love triangles (or other toxic romantic clichés), or moronic cardboard characters, especially women. It also has many of the elements I do enjoy, such as fascinating aliens and different cultures.
The aliens in this book aren’t unintelligible, like Cherryh’s methane breathers, but nor are they humans except for the bumps in their heads. Instead, they have their own cultures, which sometimes make the humans uncomfortable, especially when family structures are different, but which aren’t shown as inferior or bad. For example, one species lays eggs which means that their young aren’t helpless from the start and are treated quite differently than human babies. The ship’s doctor belongs to a species where all the people starts out as female and later change into a male.
This is somewhat different structurally from most books because it doesn’t have one overarching plot or character arch. Instead it has several minor arches. Like a season in a TV show. Almost every person on Wayfarer has an arch devoted to him, her, or they. I still wouldn’t call these short stories because they all have impact on the story and happen along the way to the small, angry planet. While the stories aren’t focused on violence, there are some rather tense stories, too. And the ending packs an emotional punch.
This book doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. The next book seems to follow one crew member. (I’m waiting for it eagerly.)