Record of a Spaceborn Few,
Not since Steven Erikson published the last of the Malazan Books of the Fallen have I been this excited for a new title. With the depth of the love I have for “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” and “A Closed and Common Orbit” and the genuine buzz of anticipation while I awaited the delivery of this volume, it would have been easy to have been disappointed, but of course I was not. Of course this novel was exactly what I hoped it would be and more.
Much like Chambers’ other works, “Record of a Spaceborn Few” is moving in what feels like small personal ways but is actually big, universal ways and it is uplifting on the same scale. The main thing that all three books have in common is an emotional centre that touches something in the reader that feels like home. Beyond the physical, beyond the familiar even is a deep sense of connection, of what we could be, of what we should be. This is something that is so rare in stories, be they novels or films or tv shows, that when we find it, it really resonates and we cling to it and we rejoice when we meet others who have found the same sense of home in the stories we love. The example that comes to mind is Firefly, which has been compared to “A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” for many superficial reasons, but also for the sense of family and familiarity it engenders, and the sense of connectivity it has had from its fans.
“Record of a Spaceborn Few” centres on the human population of the Exodus fleet which, centuries after leaving a dying Earth is still, remarkably, doggedly, flying on, despite inclusion into the galactic commons and all the opportunities for ground-based colonies that implies. For those born in space, the Fleet way of life cannot be so easily cast aside, and home means so much more than a place. The Exodan fleet fled not only a damaged planet, but the aspects of their nature and society that had caused the damage in the first place. They hoped not only to find a new home, but to find a new way of being that was less reckless, less cruel, less destructive, and in doing so made for themselves a culture that informs every aspect of their lives.
Though the world building is rich and vast and the stories to be told are innumerable, what makes Chambers’ writing so readable is the characters. Characters who are not perfect, who are recognisably flawed, often naive or self-centred or just simply reaching for something that they can’t explain to fill a hole that no one made but has always been there. Characters who are relatable in the deepest sense of the word. However, what is almost universal is that, even though it is sometimes deeply buried, her characters have the capacity for compassion which, when directed towards themselves and others, results in understanding and acceptance and hope. Something which is perhaps too often undervalued and unrecognised in the world around us.
At its most basic level the sentiment that is communicated in this novel is that no sentient being, no matter how isolated they feel, how different, unique or unimportant, no being can exist among others without affecting them and being affected by them.
Like the characters in them, each of Chambers’ novels is self contained but connected. A constellation of stories where the core is about the balance necessary to find connection without losing what makes you who you are, and that even though it is often easier to want more than to hope for better, hope allows you to encompass what you have and appreciate its value, while want only seems to belittle what you are already lucky to enjoy.
From the ground, we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope.