I do love a road trip story.

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I do love a road trip story, and what better than an sf road trip story? Nothing, that’s what.

Rosemary Harper is podding her way to Wayfarer, a tunnel ship that bores wormhole junctions, there to take up her duties as clerk. Almost as soon as she comes on board Captain Ashby Santoso bids on boring a junction between the Galactic Commons and the Toremi, a warlike and xenophobic race near the black hole at the galactic core. The McGuffin is ambi, harvested best near black holes and used to power spaceships, so of course the GC wants to make nice with the Toremi so they can get their hands on all that lovely ambi.

The crew of Wayfarer is a mixed bag, a doctor/chef who resembles a six-legged slug, a lizard pilot, a big grizzly navigator, a couple of human techs, a human algaeist (algae makes spaceships go, too), a human captain, and now a human clerk. Most of these folks are just what they seem, but…some of them aren’t, and part of the fun of this novel is the way Chambers takes her time in revealing everyone’s backstory. I like the way she refers to space as “the open” — it is surely that — and there are other interesting snippets that come in the form of news bulletins and random info searches (she doesn’t use the word google but she coulda).

How is it that life, so diverse on the surface, has followed the same patterns throughout the galaxy–not just in the current era, but over and over again?…For my part, I think that the best explanation is the simplest one. The galaxy is a place of laws. Gravity follows laws. The life cycles of stars and planetary systems follow laws. Subatomic particles follow laws. We know the exact conditions that will cause the formation of a red dwarf, or a comet, or a black hole. Why, then can we not acknowledge that the universe follows similarly rigid laws of biology?

How I wish I could live long enough to accumulate enough empirical data to even propose that question. Since that’s not in the cards, I’m okay going along with this ride. Recommended.