Book Review: To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

on · · 300 words

A strange star and moon hang over an alien planet.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey.

This is a delight! It is separate from Chamber's Wayfarers series. Sort of. It deals with the same sorts of themes - humans, all alone in the night, exploring outer-space while trying to conquer inner-space.

It's a short book, perfectly realised. Not a syllable is wasted and the action is tightly paced and believable. At some point, humanity will stop sending out "heroes" into space and send more practical and useful folk. How will they cope with the rigours of seemingly-eternal nothingness? What famous exaltations will they give when stepping foot on foreign soil? What will they do if all seems hopeless?

Such a rich mine of stories. I was left wanting more. More worlds to discover, more details on the technology, and more insight into what motivated the characters.


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