The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the only book of this series which didn’t make me cry, and it felt the least consequential (which is not saying much, perhaps, when the previous books tend not to have galactic significance either). Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but I do think it’s important to be open-eyed about that going in: in many ways, it’s just about people learning things about themselves. Those people are aliens in a much wider than we’re part of, true, but many elements of the story could be managed the same without being science fiction.
What I do enjoy is that Chambers puts thought into making each alien culture different, though with some rhymes in experiences and histories that give them common ground among the differences. This one features no humans at all, unlike the previous instalments, which was an unexpected delight.
The plot is basically “three stranded travellers and their hosts must get along for a brief period of time despite having reasons to be elsewhere”, and plays the characters and their histories against each other to delve into stuff that’s troubling in previous books (Aeluons and their war-mongering, for instance). At the end, everyone goes on their way safely — but not without having to have a think about themselves and what they’re doing, and where they might be going next.