This week we’re taking a look at Part 3 from “The Last War” to “Heresy” – this is my first time creating questions for a read-along, so I do hope you like them.
Thanks again to Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow for organising the read-along and inviting me to host this week. Also hats off to both her and Chris at Galleywampus for coming up with really cool questions. Anyway, onto this week’s discussion points…
From here, proceed with caution: Spoilers galore!
1. 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?
The Grum – There’s a grim sort of wisdom to Dr Chef’s story, which I found deeply weird and fascinating. As a species, the Grum got caught up in internal struggles enough to bring themselves to the brink of extinction, and it seems that they gained some sort of insight once they got there, some form of self-awareness that let the few remaining Grum see very plainly that the species couldn’t be saved. To go from this much blind, intense action, always fighting, to such a peaceful state of acceptance of their fate – it could have easily come across as cowardice but the way that Dr Chef was shown resting with his feeling felt more like it was a fight to remain sane and die out gracefully. I really, really enjoyed this chapter (though it did make me well up on the Tube).
The Aandrisks – I enjoyed the visit to Sissix’s home world and the discussion of her three different families and what the concepts mean, but I didn’t think we learned a lot about the Aandrisks in this part of the book. Because we’ve met Sissix before and been in her point of view, what we read about here is more reinforcement than discovery. I thought the chapter worked well though, and as an expat myself, I found it really relatable.
The Aeluons – I’m a bit confused about the Aeluons. In the first half of the book, we learn that they don’t mix much with other alien races, yet Pei’s crew are all fairly pleasant during their visit to the Wayfarer – though of course they’re given a good reason to be grateful & friendly after Kizzy finds the mines. It’s baffling to think of an alien race that’s considered incredibly attractive to all others, but seeing as their technology also seems really shiny, maybe all of it is just a result of the Aeluons being an older, much more advanced people.
The Quelin – Before they came aboard the ship for their inspection, I didn’t feel like I had a good idea of what kind of aliens the Quelin were, though it was clear from the crew’s reaction that they were bad news. They were suitably threatening as (secondary?) villains, but I wish we’d gotten more insight into why they behave as they do. It’s clear that they have a strong objection to clones but I’d have liked to know more about it, is it a moral, ethical, religious objection? I really liked reading Sissix’s take on her interaction with the Quelin guard – it was great to see the different alien species put in context of each other with the idea that Aandrisks are a big deal at GC level.
2. 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?
I know some people don’t want romance cooties in their SF, but since I’m an utter sap, I was completely on board with more Ashby & Pei and more Jenks & Lovey.
Ashby & Pei’s relationship needs to be kept hidden at all costs, yet of the three we see in this part, it’s probably the closest to a traditional romantic relationship we are used to seeing portrayed in fiction. It was good to see everyone in the Wayfarer’s crew behaving themselves, and not endangering their captain for the sake of cheap jokes.
I was fully expecting Jenks & Lovey to press with the body kit plan (it would have been a great source of danger and conflict for the story) but I’m glad they didn’t! Though I was surprised by their decision, it made complete sense. After hearing the Quelin condemn Corbin because “he exists”, I don’t want to think of what they’d do to poor Lovey (although of course Jenks gives us a pretty good idea). I’m convinced they’ll have to use the illegal kit at some point of another – whether it happens before the end of the novel or not, I don’t know! I still don’t have a great sense of who Lovey is as a character but it was very sweet to see both she & Jenks willing to put the other’s needs (for safety or happiness) before their own.
I found the development of Rosemary & Sissix’s story really intriguing, I especially liked the concept of ‘tresha’ that Sissix cannot put into Klip. Rosemary’s interest for how & why other alien races tick is quite relatable to me, and I admired the depth of her understanding and empathy. I’m glad that we get confirmation this is something Rosemary really wants, not only a gesture of sympathy. The way it was done (Sissix picking up on Rosemary’s pheromones) was also quite clever. And Ashby notices something after a while, can’t wait to see where this goes…
3. Cloning technology exists and is used is 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?
I thought the reveal of Corbin as a clone was quite cool, as well as the rescue operation, although the latter felt a bit predictable to me. Corbin is part of the crew, and even Sissix acknowledges he is part of her family when talking to Rosemary in the previous chapter. There was no way they wouldn’t save him (in an he’s a grumpy asshole, but he’s OUR grumpy asshole sort of a way). And of course, it had to rest on Sissix’ shoulders – to be honest, I didn’t really buy the explanation of why it had to be her (it felt like ‘for reasons’ to me), but I loved reading about her processing what it meant. One can only hope that it’ll lead to Corbin re-evaluating himself, his own close-mindedness, and the way he treats Sissix.
The conversation with his father felt more significant than the revelation of Corbin being a clone, and I really enjoyed those passages with the two of them. It was also good for Corbin to get an outsider’s perspective of what we’ve known all along, that the crew of the Wayfarer may not all be his best mates, but they care about him still.
4. 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 the crew or are you impatient for the crew to finally get to their destination and do some tunnelling?
It’s a little bit of both for me, if I’m honest! I really liked those four chapters and I only noticed how self-contained they were when I was preparing these questions. I never wanted to put the book down at any point, so clearly the pace hasn’t suffered too much, but I worry about being so far into book and having so much story left to go through!
The succession of smaller events in each chapter gave a good impression of time passing on the Wayfarer’s journey, and the structure helped underline that it is indeed a long way to the tunnelling site. But even as we’re reading about a ‘long journey’ and I’m loving it, I can’t wait to get to the ‘small angry planet’. As I get closer and closer to the end I start worrying that there won’t be enough pages for a great, climactic conclusion to the plot. I’m not sure how Chambers is going to pull this of, but by now I’ve read enough of this book that I trust her to do a great job. I’m sure it’ll be sudden and inevitable and we’ll all curse at this betrayal. (*ahem* you know I had to…)