You miss Firefly? Yeah, here's something you should read. This book features the crew of the Wayfarer, a ship that tunnels/makes paths/wormholes in space. This is a particularly hard to thing do while working blind, so they have a navigator on staff that helps them figure out how to do it. Around the start of the book, the ship gets a commission to build a tunnel out in a very different area of space. The Galactic Commons has recently brought a group known as the Toremi Ka into their alliance and supposedly the Toremi Ka would like a wormhole out to other areas of space. This will take about a galactic year to do (or at least to get out that far, I guess), so as the title says, we follow the crew's journey on that year toward their target. The Toremi are notoriously fighty and bloodthirsty, so having any of them joining a peaceful alliance is...surprising, to say the least. How is that going to go?
The book isn't quite a collection of short stories featuring the crew, but it kind of is, in a sense, as the focuses change from character to character on their way to the small, angry planet. They have adventures, run into trouble, meet nice people, and eventually end up in a scary situation once they arrive at their final destination.
Our cast is:
- Rosemary Harper, formerly Harris, whose rich dad notoriously just went to jail for arms dealing with the Toremi. She's changed her identity and gotten a job far away from home, and she's great at research and to some degree, cultural expertise. When the ship is robbed by a species in need, Rosemary knows a language they speak and is able to safely and successfully negotiate giving them the supplies they need without leaving the Wayfarer crew destitute in space. She has some issues with the Toremi, obviously, which end up inadvertently leading to some trouble...
- Captain Ashby Santoro, a genuinely nice captain and good egg who everyone loves. He has a secret girlfriend of another species that the crew knows about, a fellow traveling captain. However, her species is very against intergalactic lovin', so when her ship runs into some trouble and she goes to Ashby for help, restraints have to be on.
- Kizzy, the fizzy, fun, flamboyant ship's tech who is more Kaylee than Kaylee, even. She is loads of fun and one of my favorite characters and can go from being flippant and goofy to holding it together when things are blowing up.
- Jenks, Kizzy's fellow tech and partner in crime, is secretly in love with Lovey, the ship's AI. It's mutual. The two are secretly plotting how to get Lovey some sort of organic body so that they can be together all the way, which is hella illegal if caught.
- Corbin: the algae guy (this seems to be a fuel thing). I don't actually have too many similarities between the Wayfarer crew vs. Firefly crew beyond Kizzy/Kaylee, but Corbin is definitely The Grumpy One Nobody Likes All That Much. He 's abrupt and rude and nitpicky and generally annoys folks. However, when he gets arrested very unexpectedly during a ship inspection, he finds out something he never knew about himself. He also has a very ... I won't spoil it, but he has A Moment towards the end you wouldn't have necessarily expected from him.
- Sissix, the alien (think lizardlike) pilot who is just amazing and fun and my other favorite besides Kizzy in this book. She's from a Very Affectionate species, and on a home visit Rosemary sees how much Sissix must be in need of companionship like she gets at home. Ahem. Hubba hubba.
- Dr. Chef, the doctor/chef on board, is another alien but I can't even think of an easyish way to describe him. He's super nice and sweet, but from a species that has basically fought itself to death and is on a course for eventual extinction.
- Ohan, the Sianat Pair Navigator. Sianat become what they consider to be two persons in one body when they are infected with a virus that allows them to navigate space in the way that they do. It's considered a great honor. However, the virus drastically shortens their lifespan and Ohan's on their last job before dying here. But when Kizzy discovers a hidden Sianat refugee spot for "heretics" who got cured of the virus and therefore could live normal lives, this leads to an ethical dilemma of whether or not to force a cure on Ohan even though they say they don't want one and are willing to die.
Eventually the crew arrives and things go...unexpectedly, I'll put it that way. Or alternately, loose lips sink ships when you're not aware of a species wanting consensus on everything and having really good hearing.
Overall I liked this book a lot and read it pretty continuously (while on a 3 hour hike I covered most of it). It's a delightful treat to get to hang out with these people. I think some reviews have issues that the entire plot isn't dealing with the Toremi situation, and I think a lot of books would have focused on that more. I didn't have a problem with that, however. I enjoyed the journey as well as the destination. The worldbuilding is intriguing and fun, the different species and cultures are done well, and the "oh lord, sometimes humans drive me nuts!" snark is fun. There's great variation in genders, pairings, alien traits, romances, etc. and mostly everyone gets along despite their differences, except when Corbin is annoying folks.
So, four stars from me.