To Be Taught, If Fortunate, is a novella from Becky Chambers.  You’ll remember I was blown away by her Wayfarers series, starting with Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. I got this during a promotion, and also got a very nice notebook/workbook designed for planetary explorers. I didn’t actually use it though.  Maybe next trip 🙂

This is my third SpaceTime Reading Challenge book.  I really must do more reading!

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

to be taught if fortunateby Becky Chambers

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. [goodreads]

My Review

Becky Chambers strikes again with a brilliant, well research novella (although it was quite long enough for me), about space exploration by humans. Ariadne and her three companions set out on a programme developed by an independent space research organisation, funded by people who believe this is something humanity should be doing.

The message that opens their trip to four planets in their sun’s habitable zone makes you wonder just what is going to go wrong.  Plenty does, but not in the way you think. The four planets are extraordinarily well defined. The science behind the alien biology, and the scientists’ analysis of the species they encounter, is partly explained by her resource of an astrobiology professor. But the ideas are Becky’s, the accuracy aided by her parentage.

The four space travellers are great characters, as we expect from this author.  A long self-analysis from Ariadne, our narrator, partly explores their reactions and developments in response to their finds. I found this both real and fascinating.  Not everyone will appreciate this section, but she acknowledges you might skip it.

As a rule, life on Earth uses left-handed amino acids and right-handed sugars. This is an age-old puzzle of biochemistry, one that bleeds out into many adjacent fields.  (To be taught, if fortunate; Location 1851)

add to goodreads buttonIn a way, this is the heart of the book. Why are we exploring the stars? Is it just our nature to expand? Is there are need to understand why we are here, why we haven’t found life elsewhere yet? (Even if Mars is looking more and more promising, at least in its history.) To Be Taught, If Fortunate, is a quote from Kurt Waldheim, included with Voyager 1, which is now out there in space, somewhere. I wonder whether it will bring someone to explore us?

Becky Chambers strikes again with a brilliant, well research novella. 5stars #scifi #aliens Share on X

Book Review | To Be Taught, If Fortunate

2 thoughts on “Book Review | To Be Taught, If Fortunate

  • 1 June, 2020 at 2:25 am

    That does sound brilliant. I think I need to check out her work.

    • 1 June, 2020 at 11:04 am

      You should. I think scifi is far more varied than people think and, women’s writing especially, takes more account of interactions between species, among other things 🙂

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