A stand-alone SF book. Technically the third in Wayfarers series but you don’t have to read the others (although I recommend them).

Publication year: 2019
Format: Print
Page count: 359
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

This is not an adventure story. It has five POV characters who are remarkably different from each other, considering that they (mostly) live in the same place: the Fleet. They are all humans. The humans who live in the Fleet are called Exodans. They had to abandon Earth because their ancestors had made in inhabitable. Luckily, they were accepted into the galactic community of different species.

These are more like vignettes, flashes from their lives. I really enjoyed the book because I find their culture fascinating and it was fun to explore it. The book doesn’t really have an antagonistic force, unless you count the accident at the beginning of the book or evolving attitudes or technology.

A couple of the characters are restless and looking for something new in their lives. They were all touched, one way or another, by a disaster at the beginning of the book. They’re all reacting to it while getting on with their lives. Kip is a teenage boy who yearns to be able to leave the Fleet and find something else, something better or at least different. Sawyer lives in Mushtullo, an alien world where he works when he can and doesn’t have any family. When he’s once again unceremoniously fired, he decides to go to the Fleet where he doesn’t have any relatives left but he thinks he could make it there, among other humans. Tessa is a mother of two and her husband is a space ship mechanic. He’s away a lot and Tessa must try to deal with her five-year old daughter who was traumatized by the events at the beginning of the book. Isobel is over sixty and she’s a senior archivist, in charge of keeping the stories of the past alive. She’s also a host to a visiting alien anthropologist. Finally, Eyas is a caretaker. She takes care of the bodies of the dead. In space, everything is used and recycled and so are the bodies.

I very much enjoyed the alien anthropologist, Ghuh’loloan who is really not a Star Trek alien (although I adore some of them, too.:) ). She’s a Harmagian so she’s doesn’t have bones; she uses a motorized cart to get around and breaths through her skin. She has a air pouch which she vibrates so that she can talk.

This book has some ideas which are very, very different from our Western consumer culture. Such as every human in the Fleet is given water, air, food, and a place to stay. They can work and the society’s pressure, especially for the young, is that they stay and do something that benefits the Fleet. But that’s not a condition for getting food and air. They also don’t use money. They use barter. The galaxy around them uses money and some aliens see the Exodans as quite backward.

It also has some other very interesting notions which aren’t explored in fiction much (or at least I haven’t come across them). This is a quote late in the book:
“Our species doesn’t operate by reality. It operates by stories. Cities are a story. Money is a story. Space was a story, once. A king tells us a story about who we are and why we’re great, and that story is enough to make us go kill people who tell a different story. Or maybe the people kill the king because they don’t like his story and have begun to tell themselves a different one.”

Of course I’ve read books about books which are about stories. But to put our whole society as a story is blunt (and wonderful). And money is a story, something we made up. We, the society, have just allowed it to take over, well, everything else.

This book, like the others in the series, is also happily inclusive. Xyr is a gender and species neutral pronoun for a person. Isobel is happily married to another woman and we see some other same-sex couples as well, and nobody comments on it.