In Her New Novella, Sunday Times Best Selling Author Becky Chambers Imagines A Future In Which, Instead Of Terraforming Planets To Sustain Human Life, Explorers Of The Solar System Instead Transform Themselves Adriane Is One Such Explorer As An Astronaut On An Extrasolar Research Vessel, She And Her Fellow Crewmates Sleep Between Worlds And Wake Up Each Time With Different Features Her Experience Is One Of Fluid Body And Stable Mind And Of A Unique Perspective On The Passage Of Time Back On Earth, Society Changes Dramatically From Decade To Decade, As It Always DoesAriadne May Awaken To Find That Support For Space Exploration Back Home Has Waned, Or That Her Country Of Birth No Longer Exists, Or That A Cult Has Arisen Around Their Cosmic Findings, Only To Dissolve Once By The Next Waking But The Moods Of Earth Have Little Bearing On Their Mission To Explore, To Study, And To Send Their Learnings Home Carrying All The Trademarks Of Her Other Beloved Works, Including Brilliant Writing, Fantastic World Building And Exceptional, Diverse Characters, Becky S First Audiobook Outside Of The Wayfarers Series Is Sure To Capture The Imagination Of Listeners All Over The World Oh look another book I need to add to my ever growing TBR WOW, this reminded me so much of why I love sci fi and why I need to make it a priority to read of it Becky Chambers has such a knack for writing heartbreakingly human, character driven stories I loved this a whole heck of a lot. Since I first read Joanna Russ WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO I ve had a hole in my heart This book healed it This extraordinary novella proves that you don t have to write a long book to pack a big punch Becky Chambers writing gets better and better with everything she writes, and this is no exception Every sentence is perfectly balanced without attracting unnecessary attention characterization is subtle but effective and the impact of the ending is everything I hoped it would be A future sci fi masterwork in a new and welcome tradition. Becky Chambers is a freaking genius If you have any interest in speculative fiction about where we as a species could be headed then you really need to pick up any of her books To Be Taught If Fortunate is a short novella about longterm space mission to study four planets light years away from Earth There are four members of the crew of the OCA spacecraft Merian Ariadne O Neill, Elena Quesada Cruz, Jack Vo and Chikondi Daka But instead of getting caught up in stereotypical space opera style events this book takes the form of a message sent back to Earth from the viewpoint of Ariadne who is the flight engineer onboard And in this message are the details of their exploratory and investigatory mission so far But also it reveals so much about what it means to be human It poses probing questions asking about the importance of scientific research and whether a mission seeking knowledge is truly relevant to us as a species Ariadne s message is split into four parts as the crew of the Merian visit four different planets Aecor, Mirabilis, Opera and Votum And on each planet we are treated to both easy to understand and incredibly fascinating speculative science as the crew engage in their information gathering and laboratory research But we also get to delve into the psyches of these four people and how the mission affects each of them in different ways This book is truly brilliant Everything feels so authentic that I almost believed that I was reading a real space report But it s the humanity of the piece that really captured me So much so that I found myself crying at the end of the book because there was just so much heart and feeling in it It s a book about what it truly means to be a human and as a trained research scientist myself I was both deeply moved by and really emotionally connected with the hunger and thirst for knowledge that was illustrated in the book Highly recommendedfive stars As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organisation of one hundred and forty seven member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship to teach, if we are called upon to be taught, if we are fortunate We know full well that our planet and its inhabitants are but a small part of this immense universe that surrounds us, and it is with humility and hope that we take this step Former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim,1977,as recorded on the Voyager Golden Record. For reviews and book related chat check out my blog THE MARTIAN meets INTERSTELLAR, this is high concept speculative fic at its finest Rendered with startling clarity, Chambers latest offering is a short but fierce ode to humanity and all our reaches and flaws Unputdownable. Originally posted to I Should Read That I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review This is a spoiler free review.You all know how passionately I love Becky Chambers books she s one of my favourite authors and consistently puts out incredible stories When her next release was announced, I was initially a little disappointed that To Be Taught, If Fortunate wasn t going to be a continuation of her Wayfarers books However I completely trust Becky to give me the gorgeous, quiet stories I crave My faith in Becky Chambers remains To Be Taught, If Fortunate is the beautiful, gentle tale of human exploration that I never knew I needed.To me, Becky Chambers s books have always represented what humankind could be if we stopped being awful and had consideration for each other and the universe around us To Be Taught, If Fortunate is the best example of this, particularly with the idea of somaforming the way in which astronauts adapt their bodies to their environments rather than terraform a planet to adapt to them This is the most beautifully human idea in science fictional space travel I ve read I absolutely love anything that deals with space exploration, hence my passionate love of Star Trek, but To Be Taught, If Fortunate blows all other works out of the water with its displays of unselfish compassion.This novella is a little like a combination of A Closed and Common Orbit s plot y structure and her slice of life masterpiece Record of a Spaceborn Few However, To Be Taught, If Fortunate is unlike her other books, which are probably best known for their deep character insights You don t get to know the characters in To Be Taught, If Fortunate as well as you do in her full length novels However, I didn t mind this as the story drew out enough of the characters traits, particularly Ariadne, to make them compelling and interesting I particularly enjoyed the subtleties that Chambers includes to help draw a picture of the way they live and interact, as well as how their mission so perfectly suits them To Be Taught, If Fortunate is like a warm hug It s a shorter story than we are used to from Chambers, however it features the heart and humanity that I ve come to associate with her work I couldn t recommend this book highly to fans of her Wayfarers series, as well as newcomers to her work that love science fiction that deals with space travel and exploration. ARC received from the publisher Harper Voyager on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.And Becky Chambers has done it again I know that s a clich line to use in a review, but I wouldn t be surprised if in a few decades she will be remembered as one of the greats This is the exact kind of thought provoking, insightful, ultimately deeply human sci fi that makes up the best the genre has to offer.However, I went in with entirely the wrong expectations so I will say this don t expect another Wayfarers Expect discussion of the ethics of space exploration Expect your mind to be blown, perhaps But heartwarming, character focusedforget it.For one, it s hard sci fi Harder than I m used to, anyway.Ariadne is an engineer Along with a crew of various scientists, she is on a mission to explore a few planets that may have life, fourteen or fifteen light years away from Earth Because of that, all news are delayed They survive worlds that would be hostile to normal humans through somaforming bodily transformations induced by patches that can make them immune to radiation, or make their blood produce antifreeze, or give them increased bone density and muscle mass to adapt to stronger gravitation.I initially thought that I requested the wrong book That even though I love Wayfarers, I am entirely the wrong audience See, the first half of the novella is made up almost entirely of infodumps on science And if there s anything I can t stand in sci fi rampant sexism of older works aside because that irritates me in every genre , it s that I don t care about physics or biology or what have you The questions posed were interesting, sure, it was all incredibly quotable and I struggled not to highlight everything, but there s only so much I can take before I lose my patience and start skimming I have been told there is a point to it I was unconvinced.But somehow, somehow, Chambers managed it Right after the moment I started complaining because of course , it picked up There was character interaction and less didactic narration More about the worlds they visited, things I care about It s still a novella and I d perhaps prefer a bit details, as it s usually the case But it felt perfectly whole And the ending The ending made my jaw drop It blew my mind Perhaps it would not be the same for you Perhaps by the time you read it, it will be discussed to death already But I was stunned speechless.And I would love to see set in this universe.How does one even rate a book with two utterly different halves If you are a fan of hard sci fi, I definitely recommend it You will not have the same issues I had If notI still recommend it The questions it raises are worth it, I promise.Enjoyment first half 3.5 5, second half 5 5Execution 5 5Recommended to hard sci fi fans, anyone looking for a short and seriously thought provoking story, those looking for LGBTQ representation one of the characters is trans Not recommended to people who hate infodumps, those expecting something heartwarming More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds. Gifted A near future look at a manned mission to research primitive alien life outside the solar system The crew wear patches that alter their genes to adapt to each planet making their skin glitter on low light moons, giving them muscle strength on high gravity planets, etc The alien lifeforms are fascinating and distinctly non Earthian I loved the crew too some amazing diversity of race and sexuality for only 4 characters The ending really struck a chord with me too it made me think a lot about what the true purpose of space travel might be, and what we hope to get out of it as a race. I kind of did a double take when I read in the brief author bio at the end of this novella that Becky Chambers has a wife Nothing wrong with that in our enlightened age, but it is quite ironic in the light of the main criticism of her Wayfarers series as being too conventional, hopeful, optimistic, and too caught up in the minutiae of her characters often very complex and sex packed lives.Well, this criticism goes out the window with this short novella, which packs gung ho action into its slim length than the entire Wayfarers sequence to date It is about a starship crew and the series of earth like exoplanets they visit in a whistlestop tour of the universe as part of a crowd funded space quest one of the many thoughtful ideas in this wonderful tale another is that a sapling is planted for every explorer that heads out to the stars, helping reforest our home world.Chambers comments in the Acknowledgements that while she is no scientist, she than makes up for this with her enthusiasm for the genre, and its potential to enlighten our current zeitgeist, and to perhaps make meaningful pointers to a sustainable future Of course, it also helps having an astrobiologist as a mother.What I loved about this novella is that it is so full of the sheer joy and wonder of scientific research, which often consists of mundane and rote work in hazardous conditions It takes a certain mindset to be so enquiring and persistent, and Chambers captures the mentality, and the mundanity, in a manner that is totally enthralling and mesmerising.One quibble she never pays as much attention to the propulsion system of her starship We just get the sense that it zips around contentedly at sub lightspeed, of course This is not Star Trek I also would have thought the OCA would have at least considered the contingency that the Merian loses contact with Earth, or that Earth stops communicating in turn, indicating some terminal catastrophe.What the four scientists as the representatives of humanity in space, as it were ultimately choose as their final statement took me quite by surprise I don t think I agree with it fully but Chambers puts a lot of thought into her rationale It does make for a sober and heartfelt ending.The different worlds visited by the Merian are depicted beautifully and in considerable detail, given that this is such a short book which actually feels longer, as there is so much packed into its pages First contact is one of those genre tropes that seems to have been done to death Despite the fact that there is really nothing new here, Chambers brings an energy to her storytelling, and a commitment to her world building, that is invigorating and uplifting. 4.5 starsWhat an amazing short story It was a breath of fresh air after the books I ve been picking up.
- 144 pages
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate
- Becky Chambers
- 10 October 2018 Becky Chambers