Well, we’ve reached the end of our Sci-Fi Month Read Along (and almost the end of Sci-Fi Month 2022, but I’ll sob about that later). Today I’m bringing things home with the final round of questions, covering “Compounded System Failure” through to the end of the book.
Let’s discuss The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – for the final time…
The tension previously hinted at between Pei and Speaker finally comes to a head. What were your thoughts/feelings on their argument? Do you think either of them were in the right regarding their views?
This is a sticky one for me – I’m not entirely sure either one is wrong, as they both made good points, and their perspectives come across clearly enough to make it interesting when you consider both. I can absolutely sympathise with Pei’s position that the Aeluon people are defending themselves and that if this is about a territory dispute, then they haven’t really done anything wrong – but Speaker also made an excellent point that they’re fighting over arbitrary lines on a map they didn’t draw. This doesn’t excuse anyone’s use of violence, of course, but I was given pause by Speaker’s other point, that the Aeluon have gone far enough in their expansion, and that anything beyond finding a new home is being done out of needless habit, at best.
On the other hand, all they have to judge the other’s argument by is their own limited perspective and experience, so I’m not entirely sure either one is really right either. But this sort of thing is what I love about this author’s writing. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into each character’s perspective, and the philosophical depths she explores. Whether it’s about the morality of war, or about how cheese is made! I don’t always agree, necessarily, but I eat it up all the same.
And regarding their subsequent conversation, in which an understanding of sorts is reached, how do you feel about that particular resolution? How satisfactory was it for you?
I definitely appreciated that a mature, thoughtful (however cautious) approach was taken to finding a resolution, even if it came about following an emergency and didn’t exactly lead to friendship. This is entirely understandable; disagreements on this level can’t always end with puppies and rainbows, after all, but I liked that despite the lack of friendship, enough respect was found to allow Speaker to offer a perspective on a different matter that Pei could genuinely consider and find helpful. She might not have changed all of her ways, but it’s reassuring that she can consider something that’s taken for granted by her people, and decide that it simply doesn’t work for her. In this, I am entirely on Team Speaker. Pei doesn’t want to give birth, and this is reason enough not to. Her body, her rules.
We’re treated to a few denouement-style scenes in closing, where each of the previously stranded travelers (and Ouloo!) stay in contact by way of favours and gifts. Do you have a favourite moment from these chapters?
Honestly, all of these scenes were super-touching to me but I was 100% here for Pei’s moment of soul-searching to come to the decision that, no actually, she doesn’t want to have a child just because her body is entering a particular phase and tradition dictates that she must. Heck that! As someone who doesn’t have kids and never intends to, I can’t help but support this attitude. You do you, Pei.
And finally, what are your overall thoughts and feelings on the book?
I feel like this book, in particular, is going to stand the test of time when it comes to social/political relevance, and that’s as much a criticism of current politics as it is a positive statement on the author’s work. But I love this book for what it is, as much as I love the other books for what they are and the statements they make. I will never not recommend it to baby SF fans, is what I’m saying.
… And on that note, that’s it for my final post! Big thanks to Read Along-ers, past and present, for coming on this series journey with me, and I guess I’m going to have to find something to follow it up with… But that’s for next year. For now, remember it’s never too late to peruse our posts and discuss, debate and/or just nerd out with us!