So what you need to know about Martha Wells’ Fugitive Telemetry is that it’s another Murderbot novella. There, now you’re already off to read it, and my take is superfluous.
But okay, fine, I’ll give it anyway: I was disappointed that this was a prequel to the Murderbot novel, and was prepared to find the book a letdown. But just this once, a prequel turned out not to be a problem, and I thoroughly enjoyed the novella as More Murderbot even if its chronological position meant that it couldn’t really have any meaningful change in it. I guess my inner anticipatory cynic has to be wrong sometimes, and I’m always happy when it is. Recommended, but if you’ve been reading Murderbot, you were going to read this no matter what I thought.
Meanwhile, Becky Chambers’ The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the fourth of her Wayfarers series, and the one thing you can’t say about that series is that any installment is more of the same. Because once again, we have a completely new setting, with a largely-new cast of characters that only slightly overlaps with previous books, and a completely standalone plot.
So the premise of this one is that there’s a little planet with basically the space equivalent of a roadside motel at it, and a handful of different aliens are staying there. For various reasons they are forced to continue staying there longer than planned; they end up talking to and interacting with each other, and since this is a Becky Chambers novel, you can make your own assumptions about how much that forced interaction is nice or nice-adjacent.
It’s a pleasant little book. I don’t think it has anything particularly deep to say, and the plot is light, but the characters are interesting, the alien races well fleshed-out, and the interactions just tense enough to not be dull. If you’re looking for a low-stress comfort read, this might be right up your alley.
One weird thing, though, is that apparently this is the last book in the Wayfarers series. There’s no obvious reason why it would need to be—she’s shown that the setting can support completely arbitrary casts of characters in completely different places doing all kinds of different things, so why shut that down?—but I guess if she’s just bored with it and wants to create a new setting, hey, go for it. At any rate, don’t go into this looking for it to tie the whole series together in a neat package, because it’s not even remotely trying to do that. Recommended for what it is, though.