I just wanted to curl up inside this book and never come out.
The Wayfarer is a tunnelling ship, creating wormholes through space to allow ships human and alien to zip around the galaxy without spending years on the journey. Its multi-species crew accepts a prestigious new project from the Galactic Commons: building a tunnel from Hedra Ka, a small angry planet under the control of the unpredictable and warlike Toremi, to connect it back to GC space (think the EU, but galactic). The catch is that, to set up the tunnel, they have to go the long way round: slow, through ordinary space.
This is not a plot-driven book. Despite the space opera trappings, it's actually rather a quiet thing, revelling more in its rich world-building, its slow and careful journey through the galaxy, than in the warlike mission at its end.
What makes the book so delightful, then, is its characters. Think Firefly without the guns and the bravado: this is an ensemble cast made up of a range of species and orientations and genders. There's Kizzy, a bubbly, scatty tech (very like Firefly's Kaylee, in fact) without any interest in a relationship; Jenks, another tech, who's in a romantic relationship with the ship's AI, Lovey (be still, my heart); Ohan, the ship's Navigator, an alien who thinks of themselves as plural; Rosemary, a clerk with a slightly murky past; Sissix, a cold-blooded alien whose people live in effectively polyamorous family groups; Dr Chef, medic and cook, another alien whose people are dying out; Corbin, the speciesist algaeist whom everybody hates; and Ashby, the ship's Human captain.
The relationships between the members of this motley crew are complex and multifarious, but what's so nice about the book is the way tensions and crises are worked out: through communication, through teamwork, through diplomacy; often through paperwork and complex bureaucracy; never through violence. This is a meandering and incredibly rich book, one that accepts the difficulties of life and states, firmly, that they can be worked through if not always solved by talking to each other: by accepting everyone as individuals with concerns and fears and experiences and working together to get the very best result for everyone.
You know what? I needed this book. It's just wonderful, like a warm and fluffy blanket that you never want to leave.
The sequel isn't coming out until October. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO.