Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: August 8, 2019
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.
Ariadne 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 does.
Ariadne 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 more 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.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate follows four astronauts as they survey various planets that could sustain life.
Chambers’ novella is only 138 pages long, but manages to accomplish character development and world building. Though, not all characters are developed equally, their development is directly tied to what’s happening in the plot allowing the reader to feel the effects in a more heighted way.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate is biology heavy. If you’re not interested in a more science driven fiction, you may find yourself skipping paragraphs or whole pages. Chambers does not skip out on details. Though, at the end she summarizes what she just wrote at length about in layman’s terms.
What I enjoy most about Chambers’ work is her view of science fiction/speculative fiction. It’s refreshing and inclusive. Some may argue that it’s unrealistic (especially when considering her Wayfarers trilogy), but it nice to imagine a world that isn’t horrible. Potential minor spoilers ahead…. I especially enjoyed the idea that space travel is entirely crowdfunded.
Chambers communicates emotions well throughout the novella. There’s a part were it gets very dark and depressing. The characters’ thoughts and feelings bleed through the writing making readers feel just as despondent as the characters.
Overall, To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a well-crafted novella that is able to communicate so much in so few pages: developed characters and interesting worlds that almost feel complete.