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"Scared means we want to live."
From the ground, we stand;
From our ships, we live;
By the stars, we hope.
Exodan proverb
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The first novel written by Becky Chambers, The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet was published in 2014. The book follows the crew of the Wayfarer, a ship employed in building "tunnels" through space to connect distant reaches of the Galactic Commons.

The book opens with the new addition of Rosemary, a somewhat sheltered human clerk, to the multi-species crew including: lizard-like pilot Sissix; Dr. Chef, who is one of the last of his race and the ship's doctor and chef; Ohan the Navigator, whose species is infected in childhood with a parasite that lets them understand time and space but slowly kills them; Lovelace the AI; the human captain Ashby; the engineers Kizzy and Jenks; and the obnoxious misanthropic algae-specialist Corbin.

As Rosemary is acclimating to her new home on the Wayfarer, Ashby accepts a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a tunnel to the Galactic Core, impenetrable until now due to control by a violent and largely incomprehensible race, who are only now reaching out to contact the GC.

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The first entry in the Wayfarers series, it has two sequels:

  • A Closed and Common Orbit, which follows the story of Pepper, a Designer Baby who escaped from slavery, and Sidra.
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, which follows Ashby's sister Tessa and other inhabitants of the Exodus Fleet.

Tropes:

     In General 
  • Actual Pacifist: Exodans, such as Ashby, who embraced nonviolence when they left Earth in order to better survive.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Appearances aside, the different alien races are more similar in many ways than some human cultures. Tastes in art and food and entertainment are almost universally adjacent. Including alien punk rock. "Socks... match My Hat!"
  • Aliens Speaking English:
    • Subverted — the language that everyone in the Galactic Commons speaks is called Klip (short for Kliptorigan), which A Closed and Common Orbit reveals to be another language entirely when Jane/Pepper starts learning it. It seems to be a simplified language designed for use between GC species - Sissix laments its lack of subtlety compared to her native Reskitkish (which requires speaking while inhaling, something humans at least find challenging)
    • Most people on the Exodus Fleet speak Ensk, although Klip vocabulary is increasingly present in the speech of the younger generation.
  • The Ark: The Exodus fleet was filled with poor refugees from Earth after the collapse. They dismantled their cities to build the ships, then flew off into interplanetary space without any real idea where they were going. Fortunately for their descendants, they were eventually found by an Aeluon scout.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Some of the "science" offered up in the books makes it hard to guess if Chambers thinks the ideas would actually work, or she's being a Trolling Creator.
    • The Wayfarer's drive is, somehow, powered by algae, as are most other ships. However, the "bore" which tunnels through the fabric of spacetime is powered by "ambi", harvested from near black holes and a far denser and more valuable fuel source. Kizzy mentions that the ship couldn't even hold the amount of algae you'd need to switch the bore on, let alone build a whole tunnel. Where they get the energy from to grow the algae (the job of algaeists like Corbin) is not mentioned.
    • Likewise, in A Closed and Common Orbit, Sidra's android body is recharged by its own motion. If this was a supplement to electrical charging, like regenerative brakes, it would make sense. If it's the only method, as implied by Sidra's description of how her body kit works, then it's a form of perpetual motion and impossible under the laws of thermodynamics.
    • In Spaceborn Few, the Exodus Fleet ships are likewise powered by movement of the crew inside them. Again, this is extremely unlikely to provide the required power for a massive Generation Ship.
    • Using tunnels (wormholes) to travel interstellar distances is mentioned as an alternative to "FTL", which is possible but illegal due to the time travel implications. However, as far as physics is concerned any form of effective FTL is a form of time travel, even with the care taken by tunneling ships to ensure their wormholes connect two places in the same time period.
  • Bald of Awesome: Pepper, who appears in the first two books. Like all slaves from the colonies controlled by the Enhanced Humanity movement, the only genetic modification she received was hairlessness and infertility.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Inverted by the Aeluon, who evolved without hearing and communicate using colours on their cheek patches. After contact with aliens who used sound to communicate, they had to invent implants which give them a sense of hearing and the ability to process and produce audible speech. As a result, there is no native Aeluon spoken language.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes:
    • The Aeluon have four genders — female, male, shon (who switch back and forth between male and female), and those who are neither.
    • Similarly, all Grum start life as a female, reproduce asexually, transition to male once they're past childbearing age, and then end life as nonbinary.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality:
    • Aandrisk have three families, all as important as each other: the family they're born into (egg family), the family they choose (feather family) and the family they settle down and create, by adopting other Aandrisks' children, when they're old (house family). The adults bond through casual sex, and don't consider their young to be people until they're fully-grown adults. Even then, an Aandrisk doesn't have children until they get old and start an adopted family: if they happen to lay eggs before then, they give them to a house family to raise and don't maintain strong connections with them.
    • Aeluon women, during their brief fertile periods, stay with groups of highly-trained parents, having sex with the males multiple times a day to maximise her chance of conception. If she bears a child, the parents will raise it so she can get back to her career. Aeluon fertility is low, and they don't want to miss any chance someone has to bear children. They also consider raising children to be far too important a job to leave to people who aren't specially trained.
    • The Akarak, a race of bird-like aliens, believe strongly in only taking what they need. They didn't even have a concept of taking more than that before a different species, the Harmagians, colonised their homeworld and introduced it to them. The Akarak pirates who attack the Wayfarer end up negotiating what they will and won't take despite having the entire crew at their mercy, because that's how Akarak culture works (and Human Rosemary figuring this out is what defuses the whole situation).
    • The Harmagians are mostly similar to Humans, except for their species' emphasis on manners, especially when it comes to the relationship between hosts and guests. Guests who do not behave properly are considered as bad as criminals.
    • The Sianat live in Pairs, and are referred to by plural pronouns at all times. One member of the Pair is the physical Sianat creature, the other is a virus which affects the creature's brain (called the Whisperer). The virus gives them the ability to see through space-time, making them the best navigators of wormholes in the galaxy, but it slowly kills them. Sharing this navigational skill with other species (even through software) is considered heresy by the Sianat, and to actually attempt to cure the virus is murder.
    • The most notable case, however, is the Toremi, who no-one else in the galaxy can figure out. They process the entire universe in terms of patterns, and view conformity as so intrinsically good that when Toremi dispute their particular subgroup's orthodoxy, they will swiftly form a new subgroup, hostile to their former one, in which to insist upon their new orthodoxy, an approach that has left them with many factions engaged in a constant war with every other faction.
  • Earth That Was: Earth suffered through "The Collapse" which was apparently an environmental disaster that made the ecosystem uninhabitable by humans. Humanity evacuated in Generation Ships or settled on Mars. By the start of the story, the GC has helped restore the environment so that parts are inhabitable again, making it Earth That Used to Be Better.
  • Eternal English: Averted; though obviously the books are written in modern English, this is a Translation Convention and the main 'Human' language is called Ensk, implied to be a future mutation of English nigh-incomprehensible to present-day speakers. note 
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Aandrisks have no nudity taboo, but wear clothes while off-world to accommodate other species. In the first book, when Rosemary, Ashby, and Sissix visit Hashkath, one of the first things Sissix does is take off her pants and throw them back into the shuttle.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: It exists in this universe, but has been banned due to the problems of temporal disruption vastly outweighing the gains. Why wormholes and pinhole drive are able to avoid this problem isn't explained.
  • The Federation: The Galactic Commons, a galaxy-spanning union of sentient species. Humans have only recently become members.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Aeluons (such as Pei, Ashby's girlfriend) as a whole are mentioned as being found extremely attractive by a variety of species (excluding the Toremi and perhaps the Harmagians as well). They're described as hairless, having silver scaly skin, large eyes, small mouths and being very graceful.
  • Humans Are White: Zigzagged. Ashby notes in Small, Angry Planet that the majority of humans outside of Sol are dark-skinned, with lighter skintones being considered unusual. However, he also notes that Corbin's light skin indicates he's from the Sol system.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Almost always explicitly true, with an in-fiction article even dedicated to various official theories about why all known sentient species can share air and sustenance with each other. There are some species-based allergic reactions, though.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: The Aandrisks have this reputation, since their normal mode of showing personal affection in public would count as foreplay in many other cultures.
  • No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Averted; alien pop culture is shown or mentioned many times throughout the books, such as alien sports teams/games and music bands.
  • Polyamory: Favoured by the Aandrisks. Aeluons also take an arrangement similar to this while breeding, with a female or shon-female spending the two or three periods of her fertile life living with a group of parent-trained Aeluons, and having sex with the group's males and shon-males multiple times in a day to maximise her chance of bearing a child. The professional parents will then raise the child, and the mother can return to her career. Aeluons cannot afford to lose any opportunity to bear children, as their fertility rates are very low.
  • Punny Name: Port Coriol, a play on "corporeal". Changes to a Meaningful Name in the second book, which tells the story of two artificial humans, one a clone, the other an AI, living at the port who make new lives for themselves.
  • Reduced To Rat Burgers: After the starving Exodus fleet was discovered by Aeluons, they figured out the best way to feed the refugees was by offering them Red Coast Bugs, a pest on one of their colonies. Fortunately for the Exodans, they turned out to be delicious and are now considered a delicacy and enjoyed by many species throughout the GC.
  • The Reptilians: The Aandrisk look like giant bipedal lizards with multicolored feathers on their heads. Sissix jokingly tells Rosemary in Small, Angry Planet that they have no proof her species isn't descended from dinosaurs. Calling them "lizards", however, is considered a speciest (the series's version of racist) slur.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Several characters smoke "redreed" and its only negative effect is that it's described as mildly irritating to some aliens.
  • Standard Time Units: The Galactic Commons has its own timekeeping system:
    • A standard day is slightly longer than a day in Sol system time (it's unclear which solar planet they're talking about - a Sol day could well be a Martian day, which is 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)
    • Instead of weeks, the term tenday is used - meaning 10 standard days.
    • Instead of years, there are standards. One character mentions that 5 years is between 3 and 4 standards. If we assume they meant Earth years, a standard is then about 500 Earth days long.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Money is known as creds and exists digitally, in a patch embedded underneath the wrist.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?:
    • AI's for ships are common, but despite being sentient, they're considered property, not people. Much of the plot of A Closed and Common Orbit concerns two AI's, one illegally downloaded into a humanoid body, and another who raises Pepper for nine years only to be confiscated by the government because the shuttle she's housed in is condemned and nobody considers that the AI is worth anything.
    • Also clones, who aren't considered citizens of the GC, or even people by some species.

    The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet 
  • Accidental Unfortunate Gesture: While being attacked by alien Space Pirates, Ashby rubs his hands over his eyes to wipe sweat from his forehead. The pirates take this gesture to mean "I'd rather rub shit in my eyes than keep talking to you", and react accordingly.
  • The Alliance: A major recurring plot point in the book is that the Galactic Commons has formed an alliance with a Toremi clan, the Toremi Ka. The Wayfarer crew is hired to create a wormhole between Hedra Ka, the clan's home planet, and a more central location of the Galactic Commons to connect them to their allies more easily. At the climax of the book, Toum, a Toremi Ka member who hates other species and greatly disapproves of the alliance, goes rogue and attacks the Wayfarer as they attempt to make the punch to create the wormhole, very nearly killing them all and resulting in Lovey's death. He, possibly along with other rebels as well, also attacks the other Galactic Commons ships around Hedra Ka, resulting in mass casualties. This leads the GC to dissolve the alliance with the Toremi Ka by the end of the book.
  • Alien Lunch: Reversed when Sissix, an Aandrisk, is disgusted that a Solan human like Rosemary has eaten mammals.
  • Benevolent A.I.: All of the different AI programs of the Wayfarer:
    • Lovelace, a.k.a. "Lovey", has as much personality as any other member of the crew, and she and Jenks are even in love with each other. When the crew is forced to perform a hard reset on her, which wipes her memory banks clean and resets her to factory default, essentially "killing" her original personality, they deeply mourn her loss.
    • The second, factory-reset version of Lovelace as well, who is acknowledged as being a different person from Lovey. After learning that Jenks was in love with and the entire crew is mourning her previous iteration, she decides to take Pepper up on her offer to transfer her consciousness into the android body and leave the crew so they can grieve the original Lovey and move on properly.
    • Tycho, the new AI who replaces the reset Lovelace after she leaves. Ashby notices that he sounds a bit nervous around his new crew because he knows what happened to Lovey and that he can't replace her but still wants to please them, but his few appearances show him to be perfectly nice, and he's stated to get along well with Jenks.
  • Bothering by the Book: Rosemary saves the crew's ass at least twice by being a superior bookkeeper and Rules Lawyer.
  • But Now I Must Go: When Lovey's memory is totally wiped in the hard reset, causing her to undergo a Death of Personality and be reset to her original factory-build of Lovelace, Jenks's mechanic friend Pepper offers her the chance to transfer her mind into the new synthetic body Jenks had ordered for her and leave the ship. When Lovelace learns that Jenks was in love with her previous iteration and it will be difficult for him (and the rest of the crew to a lesser extent) to move on from her if this new iteration of her is still present, she decides, out of compassion for them, to take Pepper up on this offer, which sets up the events of the sequel. She's replaced by a different, male AI named Tycho.
  • Character Focus: Though Rosemary Harper is the main character and gets the narrative POV most often, everyone on the Wayfarer gets POV screentime at some point, giving all of them fleshed out personalities and motivations. Besidees Rosemary, crew members Ashby, Kizzy, Jenks, and Sissix get the most focus.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The cure to the Whisperer, which Corbin uses on Ohan after the failed punch.
    • Kizzy's pack of fixbots.
  • Cloning Blues: Corbin turns out to be one of his father, much to his surprise. Unfortunately, once this is discovered, it means he effectively has few civil rights and isn't even considered a citizen of the GC, having to reapply for the citizenship he'd held for his whole life.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Kizzy is a competent ship's tech and modder, but she has a very unique outlook on life. The author describes her as "the last person you would ever want in charge of a spaceship".
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The fate of anyone who gets targeted by gene-cutters, which essentially mutilate their target from the inside-out. Grum doctors learned pretty quickly that it was easier to Mercy Kill the victims than try to save them.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Quentin Harris, Rosemary's father, who sold gene targeting weapons to both sides of a civil war, even though he was already fabulously rich through a legitimate business.
  • Death of Personality: Of the Blank Slate variety — after the Wayfarer escapes from the sabotaged wormhole, they are forced to hard reset Lovey because she's too far gone to save as is. Unfortunately, this also wipes out her accumulated databases, essentially resetting her to factory standards and making her a different person with no memory of her previous time with the crew or her love for Jenks.
  • Defrosting Ice King/Took a Level in Kindness: He never becomes a Nice Guy, but Artis Corbin does defrost from a Jerkass into a still-abrasive Jerk with a Heart of Gold after the rest of the crew saves him from the Quelin.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Toremi kill each other over disagreements — Pei mentions that a few literally tore each other apart over an argument about whether Harmagians were sentient, and representatives who don't agree with the higher-ups are known to vanish.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Ashby, because of his Exodan background, refuses to have guns on the Wayfarer, even after the ship gets boarded by Akarak scavengers.
  • Dramatic Irony: Near the end of the book, Nib forwards Rosemary some information from the Galactic Commons warning that the Toremi have Super Hearing, so GC citizens should not say anything controversial or offensive while in the same room as them. However, this message fails to send, meaning that Rosemary never receives it and never learns this; thus, during the crew's meeting with other GC members that includes a few of the Toremi Ka, the reader knows it's a bad thing when she, Kizzy, and Dr. Chef talk in the corner and express their doubts about the alliance, but these characters do not. Toum, a highly speciest Toremi Ka member who secretly resents the alliance with the Galactic Commons, does indeed overhear this, and it ends up giving him the final push he needs to rebel from his clan and attack the Wayfarer.
  • Drill Tank: IN SPACE!! The Wayfarer has a space/time bore mounted on its belly to dig wormholes.
  • Dying Race: The Grum. There are only about three hundred of them left in the whole galaxy. Given how they reduced themselves to this state by fighting a terrible war among themselves, these few survivors have collectively decided that it's best if they have no more children and let their species quietly go extinct.
  • Family of Choice:
    • While Aandrisk family structures are already fairly complicated and, in some cases, voluntary, it doesn't detract from the revelation that Sissix chose the (otherwise non-Aandrisk) crew of the Wayfarer as her feather family.
    • A major theme of the crew as a whole, and grows into it more and more over the course of the story. Some of them do have families living elsewhere, and others don't, but they do consider each other to be family all the same. Rosemary, who had to leave her entire previous life behind, comes to see the crew this way more and more; Kizzy confesses to Jenks near the end that he's the brother she always wanted growing up; several crewmembers admit after discovering Ohan can be cured of their virus that, even though they don't know them very well, they can't bear to see them die because they're one of them; Corbin admits to Ohan that, even though he doesn't understand his crewmates very well, he cares about their happiness; and Ohan, despite the fact that him becoming Solitary at the end means that he should stay in the exile colony for Heretics, realizes he doesn't want to, and chooses to stay with the Wayfarer crew.
  • Fantastic Drug: "Smash" which is vaguely analogous to marijuana, being a plant which is technically illegal and provides a mild high. Kizzy also mentions "daffy", a type of illegal hallucinogen, when she tries to describe what it's like being inside a tunnel-in-progress, as well as "sophro", a legal version which you have to take before certain exams when studying for a tunnelling license.
  • Fantastic Racism: Or "Speciesm", as it's known in this series:
    • The Quelin despise clones, no thanks to a brutal interplanetary war involving cloning and eugenics, and openly refer to Corbin as an abomination. If their representative is anything to go by, they don't think too highly of humans, either.
    • Some of the Toremi (such a Toum, a POV character shown near the end) hate the other GC species, mainly because they don't follow the same beliefs as the Toremi — namely that everyone must think the exact same way, with dissenters getting torn apart.
  • Fantastic Slur: Corbin insults Sissix at several different points by calling her a "lizard"; despite the Aandrisks actually being lizard-like creatures, using this word to describe them is considered racist (or rather, speciest). He stops doing this after he takes a few levels in kindness.
  • Fold the Page, Fold the Space: A necessary staple in a story where the main characters' jobs are wormhole construction. Kizzy does this when explaining to Rosemary how tunnelling works. She attempts at using her breakfast as a representation of the ship and the space around it, but belatedly realizes that she "can't fold porridge". Dr Chef hands her two napkins, one for cleaning her hands and one for the scientific demonstration.
    Kizzy: (Holds up clean napkin, gripping the two opposite corners) Okay. You know the big grid-like spheres surrounding tunnel openings? [...] Those are containment cages. They keep space from ripping open any farther than we want to. You have to have one cage on each end of the tunnel. (Gestures with the corners of the napkin) So if we've got one cage at this end, and another cage at this end, we've got to construct a tunnel that effectively makes it so that this - (Stretches the corners far apart from one another) - is the same thing as this. (Brings the corners together)
    Rosemary: (Frowns) Okay, so, the cages are light-years apart. They're not in the same place. But...they behave as if they were in the same space?
    Kizzy: Pretty much. It's like a doorway connecting two rooms, only the rooms are on opposite sides of town.
    Rosemary: So the only place the distance between those two points has been changed is...within the tunnel?
    Kizzy: (Grins) Physics is a bitch, right?
  • For Your Own Good: How Corbin justifies curing Ohan of their Whisperer virus despite the latter explicitly not wanting this, since it saves his life. It also doubles as "for the crew's own good", since they're already grieving the loss of Lovey and Corbin doesn't want them to lose another member of the crew on top of this. Ohan seems to have at least partially forgiven him by the end.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Everybody else on the crew finds Artis Corbin to be unpleasant, but as he's an algaeist whose work provides the Wayfarer with vital fuel, they need him and thus are forced to put up with him. Ashby privately notes that, during Corbin's often-vicious arguments with Sissix, it's hard to maintain the neutrality necessary in his role as captain, because he doesn't much like Corbin either while Sissix is his best friend. This is still the case by the end, but it's lessened a bit after Corbin receives some character development.
  • Fumbling the Gauntlet: When Ashby is trying to negotiate with the Akarak scavengers, he wipes some sweat away from his face. Unfortunately for him, in the Harmagian language (which the Akarak language is related to), that gesture essentially means that one would rather rub shit in their eyes than talk to them. This earns him a rifle butt to the face.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: As close to it as an odd-numbered crew can get; the Wayfarer crew has five male members (Ashby, Jenks, Dr. Chef, Ohan, and Corbin) and, once Rosemary joins, four female members (Rosemary herself, Kizzy, Sissix, and Lovey). The male and female supporting characters are about equal in number as well. This is averted, though, by the end of the book; the original Lovey dies and her Lovelace reboot leaves the ship and is replaced with a male AI named Tycho, leaving the count at six men and three women.
  • Has Two Mommies: Kizzy has two fathers whom she adores, and vice-versa.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Toremi. As noted, they'll immediately rip into each other (and outsiders) if the wrong button gets pushed; one Toremi even wonders what's wrong with himself when he doesn't tear out the throat of another Toremi who is deliberately antagonizing him. This trait contributes to the Galactic Commons finally pulling out of its treaty with one of the Toremi clans.
  • Heel Realization: Dr. Chef realized how badly things had gone for the Grum and their war after two things — finding out that his side had come up with the gene cutters that the enemy was using, and having to Mercy Kill his last daughter.
  • Hope Spot: Jenks and Kizzy have performed the hard reset on Lovey, which will either bring back Lovey as she is or reset her back to factory standards. Ten minutes pass, Jenks starts her back up... and Lovey has been reset to Lovelace.
  • Humans Are Smelly: Sissix and Dr. Chef, who both have more powerful senses of smell than humans, have a rather giggly conversation in which they agree on this; Dr Chef admits he's been secretly adding powerful anti-odor powders to the soap dispensers on the Wayfarer to make their human crewmates smell less bad than most other humans. (They never noticed.)
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes:
    • The non-Human characters—primarily Sissix and Dr. Chef, but some others as well—will frequently think or talk about the many things about Humans that flummox them, such as their behavior or brain chemistry or extremely poor sense of smell, or even disgust them, like their scents or diets. That said, they also express things that they love about humanity, such as their tradition of eating meals together in big groups.
    • Also inverted quite a bit; since several main characters are Human, and The Protagonist, Rosemary, is a fairly sheltered Human who's had very little prior interaction with non-Human species, the Human characters note either to themselves or out loud the many things that frighten, puzzle, or fascinate them about other species.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Ashby, an Exodan Human, and Pei, an Aeluon. Since this trope is considered taboo for Aeluons, it doubles as a Secret Relationship.
    • Though Lovey is an AI rather than a different species, her relationship with Jenks, an Earth Human, counts.
    • Starting about two-thirds of the way into the book, we get Rosemary, a Martian Human, and Sissix, an Aandrisk. Since Aandrisk relationships are very much not monogamous, Rosemary clarifies that she's perfectly happy for it to be an open relationship on both sides; she herself won't partake in Aandrisk "tets" (orgies) that are common among their species, but is totally fine with Sissix doing so.
  • Jerkass: Artis Corbin spends most of the book as this, making speciest remarks towards Sissix (whom he greatly dislikes) and reams Rosemary out over an incorrect order she placed for him, only to not bother apologizing even after he learns she did order the right thing after all. Late in the book, however, once the crew rescues him from the Quelin, he starts to defrost.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • When the Wayfarer finds itself docked to a ship sabotaged with time bombs, Corbin points out that they should undock immediately and just let it blow; it sounds cold, but it is legitimately the safest option for the members of both crews, and the owner's insurance would cover it.
    • The Quelin GC Council member who keeps pushing Ashby about whether one of his crew said something unintentionally triggering around the sharp-eared and hot-tempered Toremi, which is in fact exactly what happened, though only the Toremi know this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Corbin seems to have become this by the end of the story, still with plenty of emphasis on "jerk". He's pretty self-aware about it, too; he admits he doesn't understand his crewmates, finds Lovey's loss to be an inconvenience rather than a tragedy and Jenks's romantic love for her to be ridiculous, and forcibly cures Ohan's virus despite them explicitly not wanting this. However, he is genuinely grateful to the crew for saving him from the Quelin (and gives a sincere thank-you to Sissix, who came for him despite their incredibly antagonistic relationship). He becomes more generous with favors to them afterwards, and outright admits that, contrary to what everyone thinks, he does care about his crewmates' grief; he cures Ohan to save his life so that the rest of the Wayfarer crew don't have to lose another crewmate so soon after losing Lovey. He even physically helps Ohan into the kitchen at the end and makes small talk with Ashby, asking him how Pei is doing.
  • Kill the Cutie: The only major character death in the story is the consistently sweet and kind Benevolent A.I. Lovey.
  • Killed Off for Real: After the Toremi attack, Lovey is badly damaged and the only option is a hard reset, which has a fifty-fifty chance of wiping her personality back to day one with no memory of the crew or her time with them. Sadly, this is indeed what happens.
  • Last-Name Basis: Unlike everyone else on the ship, who go by a First-Name Basis (and a few of them don't even have surnames at all), Artis Corbin is only ever called "Corbin" by his crewmates.
  • Like Brother and Sister: The relationship between several members of the crew, who are not romantically involved (except for Rosemary and Sissix, two women):
    • Kizzy and Jenks, and Sissix and Ashby are a literal examples in that they see each other as actual family members, but overall, their relationships are closer to Platonic Life-Partners.
    • Rosemary and Sissix both have this relationship with Jenks. In the former's case, Jenks is the first person whom Rosemary tells the truth about her father.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Corbin is put under arrest by the Quelin for being a clone, Rosemary finds out that they can rescue him if they have someone stand in as his legal guardian while he goes through the application process for non-GC species. However, said guardian has to come from a species that doesn't ban cloning...meaning it'll have to be Sissix, who shares a mutual loathing with Corbin. The fact that she does this for him despite their hatred of each other is a major factor in spurring his Character Development.
  • Meaningful Name: Dr. Chef, whose real name is The Unpronounceable for other species, chose this nickname for himself because he serves as both medic and cook for the Wayfarer's crew.
  • Mondegreen: Kizzy sings along to some alien punk rock without knowing the lyrics, leading to her yelling "Socks! Match - my hat!" When Jenks informs her it's actually about banging the Harmagian royal family and is banned in a large swathe of space, she says:
    "Huh. Well, if this band hates the establishment that much, then I doubt they’ll care about me making up my own words. They can’t oppress me with their ‘correct lyrics.’ Fuck the system."
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Corbin is very much The Friend Nobody Likes, but after he gets captured by the Quelins, the crew nonetheless goes the full mile to rescue him, despite Corbin himself having some doubts that they would. Sissix, who especially hates Corbin, has to play the biggest role in rescuing him by becoming his legal guardian for a standard until he re-gains his GC citizenship (which is taken away from him because he's a clone); she's very frustrated by this, but never even considers refusing to go along with it.
  • No-Paper Future: When Ashby gets an actual letter from his love interest, some of the crew have to have the very idea of "paper" explained to them.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • Ohan is usually pretty calm and laid back, with Rosemary comparing them to a stoned college student. This makes it all the more striking when the Wayfarer stops off at a colony of Sianat Heretics (Sianat who have refused the Whisperer, or who have been cured of it), and Ohan gets pissed off, believing that the Heretics will contaminate the crew with "lies".
    • When Pepper shows up at the Wayfarer following the failed punch, she is genuinely surprised to learn that Kizzy is now using the fixbots that she'd earlier derided as "boring".
  • Out of Focus: Artis Corbin and Ohan for most of the book, but they start to receive more characterization later:
    • Once Ohan is revealed to be dying, there's more focus on the crew's increasing dread of their impending loss, especially once it's revealed that it's possible to cure them of the Whisperer without the Sianat losing their ability to Navigate, but that Ohan does not want to do this. At the end of the book, once he has been forcibly cured by Corbin and is no longer a Pair, he begins to spend more time with his crewmates.
    • After Corbin is revealed to be a clone, something even he did not know, he gets some particular Character Focus as he learns his backstory from his father, and generally begins to become more involved in the crew's affairs aftward.
  • Police Brutality: While in Quelin custody, the enforcers respond to Corbin's protests by ramming him in the chest with their armored heads hard enough to break ribs.
  • Platonic Life-Partners:
    • Ashby and Sissix. Sissix chose the Wayfarer crew as her feather family originally because of Ashby, whom she considers the best friend she ever had, and she's certainly the crewmember that he's closest to.
    • Kizzy and Jenks spend most of their time together and are each other's "best friends in the whole galaxy". Kizzy is the person who best comforts Jenks after the death of Lovey, and outright states that she loves him like the brother she always wanted, and that they'll be close forever.
  • The Quiet One: Ohan for most of the story; they are polite and considerate to their crewmates and genuinely care about them, but like most Pairs, mostly keep to themself. After he is cured of the virus near the end of the story and becomes a Solitary, he is stated to still be pretty quiet, but chooses to remain with the crew and begins to open up to them more.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Marcus's wife and unborn child were killed in a ship accident. To replace the child he'd lost, he created a clone of himself and raised him as his own son, who grew up to become Artis Corbin.
  • Robosexual: Jenks's relationship with Lovelace, the Wayfarer's AI.
  • Science Is Bad: The belief of the more hardcore Gaiists, like the Survivalists, is that since technology is what caused the Collapse to begin with, humans should go back to the way things were before. Way, way before. Jenks' mom used to be a Survivalist, up until she gave birth to him and her fellow cultists started discussing whether they should kill him because of his dwarfism. This is not a widely held view, as the only reason anybody can live on Earth at all is thanks to advanced GC technology.
  • Secret Keeper: For a while, Ashby and Dr. Chef towards Ohan, regarding their looming death, though Dr. Chef is eventually forced to reveal the secret to prevent Space Pirates from abducting Ohan.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Ashby and Pei have to deal with their relationship this way, because they both know that Pei would end up in serious trouble if anyone found out due to Interspecies Romance being taboo amoung Aeluons. After the failed punch, Pei decides that she doesn't care who finds out anymore.
    • Rosemary's and Sissix's open relationship starts off this way, though not due to any kind of taboo and more just because of the former's desire for privacy to start out. She doesn't plan for it to stay this way forever, though, and before too long, Ashby figures it out. It's implied by the end of the novel that the whole crew is aware of it at that point.
  • Secretly Dying: The Wayfarer's Navigator, Ohan, has a virus called the Whisperer, which grants them the ability to easily visualize multidimensional space, but which also significantly cuts down their lifespan. When Small, Angry Planet begins, they are going through the later stages, called the Wane, which only Dr. Chef and Ashby know about. Then scavengers try to kidnap them in order to sell them, and Dr. Chef is forced to blow the "secretly" part out of the water in order to put a stop to it.
  • Shed the Family Name: Rosemary changed her last name from Harris to Harper after the fallout from her father's arrest as part of her plan to get away from it and start a new life.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sins of the Father: When Rosemary tells Jenks about her true identity and why she changed it, she explains that, after her father was exposed, nobody wanted anything to do with her—her friends stopped talking to her and no company would hire her for a job—even though she'd never been a part of his schemes at all, simply because they felt associating with someone from the Harris family would tarnish their reputations.
  • Space Pirates: The Wayfarer is attacked by some unusually reasonable, but still extremely dangerous, space pirates. They pistol-whip Ashby, but only because he accidentally insults them in their language, and otherwise don't physically harm the crew. They consider kidnapping Ohan to sell them, but are talked down from this when Dr. Chef reveals that they're Secretly Dying, and just settle for stealing some of the crew's supplies, which the GC reimburses them for.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Corbin's father Marcus and his wife, Sita. The latter died in a spaceship accident caused by faulty equipment when she was pregnant with Marcus's child. This is ultimately the reason he decided to clone himself despite it being illegal, so he could have a child in some form.
    • Jenks and Lovey; after the Wayfarer is attacked by rogue Toremi, Lovey is so badly damaged that the crew's only recourse is a hard reset. Sadly, her memory and personality do not survive it and she essentially gets a factory reset, returning her to her original Lovelace personality.
  • The Stoner: Rosemary notes that the Whisperer's effects on Ohan make them look like a "stoned college student". Still, she reminds herself that they are also one of the galaxy's best Navigators because of it.
  • Super Hearing: The Toremi have excellent hearing, being able to pinpoint an individual's voice in a crowd ...or Rosemary's offhand comments at the diplomatic dinner.
  • Tastes Better Than It Looks: Rosemary's reaction to the traditionally Exodan delicacy of Red Coast Bugs.
  • Team Dad: The Captain Ashby Santoso, who is very much A Father to His Men and looks after the safety and well-being of his whole crew, which functions like a family.
  • Team Mom: Dr. Chef, as The Medic and the cook for the crew, who is not afraid to be emotional and gives very good advice, especially to the crew's younger members. It makes sense when you remember that, due to how Grums work, he used to be female and was once an actual mother himself.
  • Title Drop: the narration describes Hedra Ka as "A small, angry planet, surrounded by the warships of people who wanted to control it."
  • Token Non-Human: Averted. Of the nine members of the crew, five of them—Rosemary, Ashby, Kizzy, Jenks, and Corbin—are Humans, while four are not: Sissix (Aandrisk), Dr. Chef (Grum), Ohan (Sianat Pair), and Lovey (AI).
  • True Companions: The Wayfarer crew is very much a tightly-knit Family of Choice. It doesn't matter if you're the new girl (Rosemary) or The Friend Nobody Likes (Corbin), if your crewmates don't know you well because you're The Quiet One (Ohan), or if you're an AI who isn't considered to be a "real person" in the eyes of most outsiders (Lovey); if you're a member of this crew, you're family, and your crewmates will stick by you through thick and thin.
  • The Unpronounceable: Dr. Chef's real name, due largely to his native language utilising all of his independent sets of vocal cords simultaneously.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Rosemary's comments to her shipmates at the Toremi diplomatic function—which they are able to hear from across the room, unbeknownst to her thanks to a letter that failed to send—lead to the attack on the Wayfarer and eventually the collapse of the GC/Toremi treaty.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Corbin when he forcibly cures Ohan of the Whisperer virus despite them previously having made it clear that they do not want this; he does it to save Ohan's life so the crew won't have to suffer the loss of any more members, and steadfastly believes that he did the right thing. Ashby is furious with him at first, but begins to forgive him by the end when he sees that Ohan seems to have done so as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: During the inquiry with the GC, Ashby reads them the riot act for trying to pursue the alliance with the Toremi Ka, telling them just how bad it would be to have a species that considers death a reasonable punishment for disagreement living with others who don't share that belief. Ultimately, the majority of the GC feels the same way, as they vote to dissolve the treaty.

     A Closed and Common Orbit 
  • Androids Are People, Too: Sidra is definitely a person, but has problems with being an android. Most of her conflict revolves around trying to adapt to being a ship's AI in an android body, which from her perspective is horribly limiting and unnatural. Played straight with her friends who try help her, to her increasing dismay. Eventually she transfers her consciousness to a fixed mainframe inside a shop, using her old android body and several other remote units to give her the multiple perspectives and larger memory she's designed for.
  • Cloning Blues: Pepper was one clone out of thousands that were used as slaves.
  • Designer Baby: Pepper is a member of a large group of genetically-engineered children meant to serve as slave labor.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Pepper, who spent almost a decade hiding in the remains of a disabled ship, painstakingly learning how to fix it to escape, with only Owl, the ship's AI, and the characters in a children's VR game for company. And she starts this ordeal when she's ten.
  • I Will Find You: Pepper has been searching for Owl for a decade, and the last third of the book is dedicated to recovering her from a museum.
  • Immediate Sequel: This book begins with Lovelace and Pepper leaving the Wayfarer and traveling to Port Coriol.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Pepper, a clone who was originally named Jane 23, discovered love of food seasonings following her escape from her homeworld and chose this name as her new name.
    • When Lovelace uploads herself into a synthetic body, Pepper tells her that she needs to choose a new name (of Earth origin, since the body is Human-based) because, since "Lovelace" is a computer AI program of which other models exist, it won't be too hard for someone to figure out that she's an AI illegally loaded into an android body. She chooses "Sidra" as her new name simply because she likes the sound of it.
  • Robinsonade: Pepper's story amounts to this. Cut off from human contact for nearly a decade, living in a disabled starship in the middle of continent wide junkyard, and reduced to eating wild mutated dogs for food.
  • Secret Keeper: Tak towards Sidra after xyr inkbots causes her kit body to malfunction.
  • Show Within a Show: Pepper is a huge fan of The Big Bug Crew, a long-running interactive children's show that she credits with helping foster the tolerance between various species that makes the current civilization possible. It helps that she grew up alone with an AI and watched the single episode of Big Bug available to her literally thousands of times.
  • Taught by Television: Jane/Pepper was raised alone by an AI from age 10 to 19, and all she knows of other people comes from a small selection of interactive films the previous owners forgot to delete from the AI's memory. Not that she had a lot to work with when she started - up to the age of 10 she was raised by a group of robot "mothers" programmed to teach her and her clones to sort, clean and fix discarded technology.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Mothers, who have no qualms about hurting their charges for stepping out of line, or killing them for daring to discover the truth about the outside world.
  • You Are Number 6: Clones like Pepper are identified by a first name and a number, with Pepper's original name being Jane 23.
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     Record of a Spaceborn Few 
  • Embarrassing First Name: Eyas isn't hugely fond of her name, explaining that her parents picked it thinking it means 'hawk' but didn't know it specifically means a baby hawk. There's also mention of a man named Walrus; his parents were thinking of 'Wolf' but didn't get it quite right.
  • Killed Off for Real: One of the six POV characters dies in a decompression accident mid-book. The second half of the story deals with the aftermath.
  • No Poverty: On the Exodus fleet, resources are distributed equally and everyone has enough food, clean air and water, and free medical treatment. Opening up to the rest of the GC has given them arti-grav technology, solar energy panels and a sun to orbit, which has increased their collective prosperity. However, their trade-based economy has been disrupted by creds and the fact that goods can now leave their closed system.
    Isabel, during a naming ceremony: "If we have food, he will eat. If we have air, he will breathe. If we have fuel, he will fly."
  • Theme Naming: Of the mythological variety. All the ships in the Exodus Fleet are named after gods of the night or stars, from various Earth cultures. Examples include the Oxomoco (Aztec), the Asteria (Greek), and the Al-Qaum (Nabataean).

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