I pretty much stumbled across this series and found myself drawn in. I never realized a book without strong plot could be enjoyable. All those “character books” I had to read in middle and high school (I’m looking at you Pat Conroy) where it’s exploring “the human experience” or whatever. I disliked those. But the Wayfarirer books, there isn’t a strong plot to drive me forward – and I didn’t mind at all.
So clearly, these books are all about the characters. And I do mean, all about. The barest of plot/action makes an appearance just to give the books some kind of beginning-middle-end structure, but that is all it seems to be for. These books are about the people and the world.
And this world was fascinating. The worlds Beck Chambers builds are awesome. They are deep and real. There was only one alien species I found myself going “I don’t believe they would make it to space on their own.” which is pretty rare for me in most sci-fi universes. (Uplifted species are given a pass on the “what motivated them to build that tech” question).
The first two books are stronger than the third. I think it helps that they both almost entirely sticks with a single perspective. So you, as the reader, view the world Chambers is building through a single set of eyes and the action (as it exists) remains consistent. In the third book she has about 5 characters she is following and although they pass by each other, they aren’t really seeing each other’s actions or growth.
In fact, I would argue the first book has the most plot. The second has the most character development. The third has the most world-building. That isn’t to say there is nothing of the other elements, world-building is definitely strong throughout all three, but the third it feels like more of a focus than either plot or character. And the first book has a LOT of character, but the MOST plot. That still isn’t a lot, but the MOST.
I would be careful who I recommend these books to. Someone who needs more plot would not like it. If you don’t like learning about people, cultures, and worlds -this isn’t the series for you. If you DO like learning about different people, cultures, and philosophies of life – this is absolutely a great series. It is not an adventure story, but it is an intellectual adventure.