Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Becky Chambers (2018)
We meet the Fleet's Archivist, Isabel, who is happy aboard the fleet with her wife Tamsin, both of whom are getting older now. Eyas is a Caretaker, the Exodan equivalent of a funeral director, devoted to her work but also thinking about what more she wants from her life. Kip is still a teenager and longs to leave the Fleet. Sawyer, on the other hand, grew up on the planet of Mushtello but comes to the Fleet seeking a change. Tessa has two young kids, and the novel opens with a prologue, set five years earlier, when her youngest is witness to the largest tragedy ever to befall the Fleet. One of the ships has an accident resulting in its destruction and, along with it, the death of more than 43,000 people.
I was about halfway into this book and really struck by the lack of plot. It was more slice-of-life than anything, and it took me a while to get to know the characters since it moved back and forth between them. When all was said and done, some things did happen and lives were changed and huge decisions made, but it was definitely not an action-packed story. This may be why I didn't love it as much as the other books in the trilogy. Don't get me wrong, it was still 4 stars on Goodreads, just not 5.
Becky Chambers really has a knack for building worlds and characters, and it's pleasurable just getting to know them. The Exodans are in such an interesting position: they no longer have a home planet, as we are currently many generations beyond those who first boarded the Fleet, yet the Fleet wasn't planned to be a permanent home for humans. There is so much hesitation and disquiet among the Exodans because of the tension surrounding those who have left the Fleet and want to leave and those who want to stay. For instance, Tessa has had no plans to leave, but her daughter Aya really wants to go to a planet. And then there are those like Sawyer who grew up human on a non-human planet and then move to the Fleet but don't know how to fit in. The Fleet is dwindling in numbers and they need to plan for their future. They've also depended a lot on technology from other species, and they are well aware of ways they've benefitted from the Galactic Commons and the fact that they haven't given back. It's still a pretty insular community too - Tessa has an alien visitor come stay with her to observe how their community works, and it's very novel for a non-human to be aboard. It's all really very interesting to think about.
If you haven't read any Becky Chambers yet, I highly suggest giving this series a try! I'm very much looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.