To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
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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.
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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers is the perfect reading opportunity to read a taste of Becky’s work without dedicating yourself to the Wayfarer series. For me, reading To Be Taught, If Fortunate has only cemented the belief that I am really missing out by not reading the Wayfarer series as soon as possible! This book was mind blowing, to think it’s a novella it packs such an emotional story into a short book.
When I started reading this book, which is written as a letter to an anonymous receiver on Earth, I felt very out of my depth. The author clearly has a vast knowledge and interest in science so the terminology and descriptions were somewhat like an academic textbook rather than a fictional novel but this definitely only added to the realism of the story. I felt very immersed in the writer’s situation which created an intense emotional attachment to the character’s and their circumstance.
I thoroughly enjoyed this short but enlightening read about four astronauts exploring and investigating four very different planets, light years away from Earth. During their voyage the crew begin to question their duty and their interests, as well as the interests of humanity as a whole, whether they’re right or wrong to impose themselves on other planets and their unique organisms and eco systems. I think this is a very important discussion as our own world continues to develop ways of investigating other planets and solar systems.
This novella reads like a true and real report from an astronaut in space who is facing a very difficult and heart-wrenching dilemma. There is so much feeling behind each word and action. All I can say after finishing this novella is I will definitely be grabbing the Wayfarer books next time I’m in the library!
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