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To Be Taught, If Fortunate

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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 differe 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.


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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 differe 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.

30 review for To Be Taught, If Fortunate

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    Oh look another book I need to add to my ever growing TBR!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    WOW, this reminded me so much of why I love sci-fi and why I need to make it a priority to read more of it. Becky Chambers has such a knack for writing heartbreakingly human, character driven stories. I loved this a whole heck of a lot.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Harris

    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- 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This is a beauty. A novella which packs twice the punch of the average full length novel. A story of hope and a better future. An ending which makes you want to cry. Wonderful. I love well written sci fi and To Be Taught, If Fortunate is exactly that. It follows the experiences of four scientists/astronauts who are basically crowd funded by a future Earth to explore several previously unvisited planets. Time passes and eventually they lose contact with Earth. What should they do next? I must a This is a beauty. A novella which packs twice the punch of the average full length novel. A story of hope and a better future. An ending which makes you want to cry. Wonderful. I love well written sci fi and To Be Taught, If Fortunate is exactly that. It follows the experiences of four scientists/astronauts who are basically crowd funded by a future Earth to explore several previously unvisited planets. Time passes and eventually they lose contact with Earth. What should they do next? I must admit I did not like the author's choice of ending yet it was very appropriate to the context of the novella. The four scientists experienced so much, spent all their time with each other and yet maintained a well balanced relationship with each other. When things start to go wrong and their relationships falter they must find a solution of whatever kind. I read it in one afternoon and loved it all. Becky Chambers must go on my list of favourite authors/

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    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 sty 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 recommended five 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 more reviews and book related chat check out my blog

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    Guys, if you haven't read any of Becky Chambers' uplifting solar punk (see her Hugo-award wining Wayfarers trilogy), then To Be Taught, If Fortunate is the perfect place to start. Stuffed into less than 200 pages is a compelling, intelligent, and deeply humanistic science-fiction yarn that is representative of what Chambers does best. The story is told as a letter being sent back to Earth from Adriane, pilot of a OCA spaceship meant to categorize and study exoplanets. These four pilots travel the stars, alter t Guys, if you haven't read any of Becky Chambers' uplifting solar punk (see her Hugo-award wining Wayfarers trilogy), then To Be Taught, If Fortunate is the perfect place to start. Stuffed into less than 200 pages is a compelling, intelligent, and deeply humanistic science-fiction yarn that is representative of what Chambers does best. The story is told as a letter being sent back to Earth from Adriane, pilot of a OCA spaceship meant to categorize and study exoplanets. These four pilots travel the stars, alter their physiology, and do massive scientific investigations of local flora and fauna. The story's structure is roughly chopped into four planets that the team explores throughout their journey, with decades spent in suspended animation in the interim. Chambers has a real knack for pulling the hope out of hopeless-seeming situations. The crew of Merian modify their bodies to be able to absorb the harsh radiation of the stars, manage 2G gravity, and prevent the blood in their veins from freezing. This human ability to adapt and evolve is a constant in Chambers' work, but is most prominent here. Even though the wacky science transformations are cool, it is just as satisfying to travel with Adriane, Elena, Chikondi, and Jack through their personal hardships. Their unbridled excitement for scientific discovery is heartening and captures both the mundane reality of benchwork with the exhilaration of uncovering something heretofore unknown. Overall, this is a super solid sci-fi. It is interesting, well constructed, and has that uniquely positive spin that makes Chambers' work so satisfying. This tends more toward hard sci-fi than Wayfarers' more fantastical alien civilization, but also touches on real-world struggles of today (climate change is a frequent talking point). Again, if you haven't given Chambers' solarpunk a try, To Be Taught, If Fortunate provides the perfect entry point.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Ngan

    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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I’ll say right off the bat that I’m not a science fiction reader, and initially I struggled to get into this. There’s not much in the way of a traditional ‘story’ beyond following four explorers as they leave Earth to investigate specific planets. These planets are varied, some teeming with life, some none. All have differing environments too, and the book explores how we humans can ‘change’ to adapt to that environment - which was interesting, as well as the moral dilemma of interfering with li I’ll say right off the bat that I’m not a science fiction reader, and initially I struggled to get into this. There’s not much in the way of a traditional ‘story’ beyond following four explorers as they leave Earth to investigate specific planets. These planets are varied, some teeming with life, some none. All have differing environments too, and the book explores how we humans can ‘change’ to adapt to that environment - which was interesting, as well as the moral dilemma of interfering with life for our own gain. There was certainly a lot of moral thinking here. It’s a quiet novella, with a small amount of mystery and internal struggles. It’s about life, familial love, science and space. It’s a very different kind of read for me, and while I couldn’t get into this at first, when the mystery element kicked in I was intrigued. Intrigued enough to give Becky Chambers’ other books a go.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This was fascinating and a very engaging concept. It did not charm or entertain in the same way the Wayfarers did, but I did enjoy it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    The good: I honestly enjoyed the science bits and exploring the worlds. I kept thinking of Peter Watts' book, Starfish, where the people alter themselves for the harsh environment rather than the other way around. But unlike Peter's book, this is downright mild and doesn't go for the mental health issues. At least, it doesn't go for them in quite such a hardcore way. The bad: This is hard-SF, and while the cool focus is mostly on biology rather than physics, we still have t The good: I honestly enjoyed the science bits and exploring the worlds. I kept thinking of Peter Watts' book, Starfish, where the people alter themselves for the harsh environment rather than the other way around. But unlike Peter's book, this is downright mild and doesn't go for the mental health issues. At least, it doesn't go for them in quite such a hardcore way. The bad: This is hard-SF, and while the cool focus is mostly on biology rather than physics, we still have to ignore quite a few things. My main concern is that it felt quite a bit like the dozens of short stories, novelettes, and novellas that go this same route to one degree or another. The only new thing this brings to the table is HOW the story is told, and even that is... okay. I still had a good time. But all told? Interesting worlds and a slightly interesting end. Never mind that we can almost always expect Earth to fall apart during ANY space exploration attempt. That's always a done-deal.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Hutchinson

    This was just such a lovely novella about everything. I'd be laying if I said it didn't leave me wanting more, but isn't that what a good book is supposed to do?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a SF space exploration novella in tradition of classic SF educaiment. People go to the stars. And it is done not by a state or corporation, but by million of people across the globe giving money to a non-profit that launches several spaceships with small crews (4 persons) to stars with planets in a Goldilocks’ zone. Our narrator, a female engineer Ariadne O’Neill, aboard the spacecraft Merian, sent 14 light years from the Sol. The book starts with her note to the re This is a SF space exploration novella in tradition of classic SF educaiment. People go to the stars. And it is done not by a state or corporation, but by million of people across the globe giving money to a non-profit that launches several spaceships with small crews (4 persons) to stars with planets in a Goldilocks’ zone. Our narrator, a female engineer Ariadne O’Neill, aboard the spacecraft Merian, sent 14 light years from the Sol. The book starts with her note to the readers that she hopes that she won’t be the last space explorer, which sets the tone for the whole story. Each chapter is an exploration of one of the celestial bodies - icy moon Aecor, and the terrestrial planets Mirabilis (heavy jungle like), Opera (a water world), and Votum (a dirt world). The exploration is extremely careful, quite unlike a lot of earlier SF, no threatening of native ecosystems with terrestrial biome. A nice read with some interesting ideas and, like author’s other books, it is not dry but full of emotions. The unexpected final for me sounded not in the character, but this is a spoilery part, so no details. So far quite likely nominee for Hugo/Nebula.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lauren James

    [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 more 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 ma [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 more 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trike

    While I feel the ending of this novella is a bit of a cop-out (view spoiler)[the crew of the Merian chooses not to choose, and, in my opinion, doom themselves to dying in hibernation waiting for a message from Earth that will almost certainly never come (hide spoiler)] , I fully acknowledge that viewpoint comes from my own particular bias toward life due to who I am and my generation. Chambers is different from me in many important ways, some of which are fundamental While I feel the ending of this novella is a bit of a cop-out (view spoiler)[the crew of the Merian chooses not to choose, and, in my opinion, doom themselves to dying in hibernation waiting for a message from Earth that will almost certainly never come (hide spoiler)] , I fully acknowledge that viewpoint comes from my own particular bias toward life due to who I am and my generation. Chambers is different from me in many important ways, some of which are fundamental, so I get that her solutions would not be my solutions. That said, I liked this novella fine, which features something I haven’t read in a while, namely exploration porn. It’s all about seeking new life on strange new worlds, and I’m all about that. (view spoiler)[(Which is part of why I disagree with the ending. I would not await permission to explore another planet that was previously beyond mission capability. They have enough fuel to either return the 14 lightyears to an Earth ravaged by a massive solar flare — or possibly even a nova event, meaning everyone and everything is likely dead — or they can press on the 13 lightyears to a further planet. Me, I’d go forward. If humanity does survive, they might appreciate the new information. If they’re all dead, it doesn’t matter what the crew does.) (hide spoiler)] The basic idea here is similar to James Blish’s The Seedling Stars, where instead of terraforming planets to suit humans, instead we physioform humans to suit planets. In the Blish stories it’s done for colonization purposes and the changes are permanent. Here it’s for temporary exploration. They alter their bodies for a few years then go on to the next planet. It’s a cool idea, if not entirely original. Chambers’ standard setting of people working together and getting along well while being competent professionals is on full display here. That seems utopian to me, and decidedly Science Fictional, but it’s a nice thing to consider. I haven’t minded it in her other three books and I don’t mind it here. One thing that does bug me is the Super Science of the ship. The Merian is over 50 years old when the story begins, and then over a period of many years they travel to four planets, spending numerous years on each, yet nothing ever breaks or wears out. I went to the store the other day and my year-old car refused to shift from Park into Drive. I know it’s not the focus of the story, but it’s an important aspect that would add verisimilitude. All in all this is a pleasant SF tale, but I can only give it 2 stars due to the things I wasn’t buying. I definitely liked Chambers’ other books better.

  15. 4 out of 5

    wanderer (Para)

    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 cliché 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 adeeply  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 cliché 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-focused...forget 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 more character interaction and less didactic narration. More about the worlds they visited, more things I care about. It's still a novella and I'd perhaps prefer a bit more 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 more 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 not...I still recommend it. The questions it raises are worth it, I promise. Enjoyment: first half 3.5/5, second half 5/5 Execution: 5/5 Recommended 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    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 t/>I 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 more 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 more 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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

    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 more gung-h 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 more 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 more 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 more 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jemppu

    A pioneering space mission in the near future with it's feet firmly on our reality. The joviality, compassion and diversity familiar from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet crew meets the no-nonsense mentality and first-person narration reminiscence of Red Mars and The Martian: logging in details on daily maintenance and mission tasks, convincing bits of astrogeological and astrobiological observations, and perceptive personal thoughts on crew psychology. Absolutely captivating treat, with intrigue, problem so A pioneering space mission in the near future with it's feet firmly on our reality. The joviality, compassion and diversity familiar from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet crew meets the no-nonsense mentality and first-person narration reminiscence of Red Mars and The Martian: logging in details on daily maintenance and mission tasks, convincing bits of astrogeological and astrobiological observations, and perceptive personal thoughts on crew psychology. Absolutely captivating treat, with intrigue, problem solving and mild suspense, establishing fascinating vision of future human history in space. Highly enjoyable and easy read throughout, in Chambers' feel-good fashion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    While this excellent (mostly) hard SF novella isn't set in the Wayfarer's universe, it explores common themes for this author around social cohesion, shared purpose and found family, along with being a profoundly hopeful story about crewed space exploration. The framing conceit of this is as a message home from a small crew of extrasolar explorers. The mission targets exoplanets with signs of life and uses slower-than-light travel with suspended animation technology and "somaforming", While this excellent (mostly) hard SF novella isn't set in the Wayfarer's universe, it explores common themes for this author around social cohesion, shared purpose and found family, along with being a profoundly hopeful story about crewed space exploration. The framing conceit of this is as a message home from a small crew of extrasolar explorers. The mission targets exoplanets with signs of life and uses slower-than-light travel with suspended animation technology and "somaforming", where the astronauts use gene-patching to alter themselves for their target environments. As an exercise in potential exobiology it's fun and clever. As a look at the psychology and social interaction of the most profoundly isolated people ever it's wonderful and particularly due to the point of view character who acts as the glue that keeps the small family together.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Touching tale of the wonders and challenges of space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life in particular. Chambers really examines what drives us to explore, to send humans where drones and technology might suffice, and ask the big questions about the nature and origin of life in the universe. And beyond that, the enormous costs and sacrifices involved, and the necessary support, input and enthusiasm of so many to make it a reality. "Are astronauts still relevant in your time/>"Are Touching tale of the wonders and challenges of space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life in particular. Chambers really examines what drives us to explore, to send humans where drones and technology might suffice, and ask the big questions about the nature and origin of life in the universe. And beyond that, the enormous costs and sacrifices involved, and the necessary support, input and enthusiasm of so many to make it a reality. "Are astronauts still relevant in your time? We have found nothing you can sell. We have found nothing you can put to practical use. We have found no worlds that could be easily or ethically settled, were that end desired. We have satisfied nothing but curiosity, gained nothing but knowledge."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Veronique

    4.5* Wasn’t sure what to expect from this novella but Becky Chambers delivers again, this time a tale of scientific discovery featuring a small crew of four, full of hopefulness. On one hand, you have the work of investigating our universe, in all its diversity, but at the same time, that of discovering ourselves. Beautiful.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    4.0 Stars Becky Chambers packed such a beautiful and powerful story into this little novella! Unrelated to the Wayfarer’s series, this story had a slightly different narrative style and tone than her beloved companion series. This novella was more focused on the technical aspects of science fiction with a little less emphasis on the characters. The story still had the author’s optimistic view of the future. Yet it was noticeably more toned down, which made the story feel more realistic than 4.0 Stars Becky Chambers packed such a beautiful and powerful story into this little novella! Unrelated to the Wayfarer’s series, this story had a slightly different narrative style and tone than her beloved companion series. This novella was more focused on the technical aspects of science fiction with a little less emphasis on the characters. The story still had the author’s optimistic view of the future. Yet it was noticeably more toned down, which made the story feel more realistic than the rose coloured future described in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Personally, I actually liked this novella a little more than her Wayfarer books. I absolutely loved the inclusion of the hard science woven into this story. I found those passages absolutely fascinating and I learned a lot of interesting facts. While there were those technical aspects, the book was still incredibly accessible to readers. The science was always clearly explained so that the story would be understandable to readers, like myself, who don’t have a lot of formal science education. The story was not fast paced, yet I was still completely immersed in the narrative. Despite the short page length, I read this quite slowly because I wanted to savour all of the hard science tidbits. The story had a very strong ending that left quite an impression on me. I would highly recommend this novella to just about any science fiction reader. If you already love Becky Chambers’ work then you will love this too. If you have not read her stories before, then this would be a perfect place to start. Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC copy of this book from the publisher.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura Lam

    Why did I make the mistake of reading this while I'm first drafting something. Another beautiful offering from one of my favourite writers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I absolutely fell in love with this author's Wayfarer series and was so glad it won the Hugo for best series this year.  So I was super excited to read this novella even if it be set in another world.  I was not disappointed. Becky Chamber's website describes the novella like this: " . . . set fourteen light-years from home.  At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method k Ahoy there me mateys!  I absolutely fell in love with this author's Wayfarer series and was so glad it won the Hugo for best series this year.  So I was super excited to read this novella even if it be set in another world.  I was not disappointed. Becky Chamber's website describes the novella like this: " . . . set fourteen light-years from home.  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 subzero 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 journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life." The novella is told from the perspective of Adriane who is one of the four scientists onboard an exploratory mission to do research on four exoplanets in a system far, far away.  The goal is to do a scientific study and go back home despite knowing that Earth will not be the same one they left.  Each trip to another planet involves a sleep cycle to somaform in preparation.  The astronauts receive periodic updates from home that seem increasingly irrelevant as they deal with the trials and triumphs of discovery.  But of course dealing with Earth's changes prove to be vital. Unlike the Wayfarer series, this story does not deal with alien culture and technology even if alien lifeforms are present.  This story is about the human crew, their interpersonal relationships, and how they handle their time in space.  It has more of a hard sci-fi bent then her other works but it was both easy to follow and fascinating in concept.  I loved the science and psychology of this novella.  The novella is split into four parts, each covering a different exoplanet.  Even with the short length, Chambers continues to explore diversity, the human condition, and today's society. I have to admit that being on a plane at night watching the thunderstorms below and the moon shining brightly above enriched the reading for me.  Everyone else around me was asleep in the darkened plane.  It is the closest to space I will ever be and it be magical.  I knew I was reading a story but it just felt so real and plausible.  I loved it. There was also a very lovely special section discussing sci-fi facts and writing styles with a Q & A with the author and her mom.  Fun!  I loved this one and can't wait to see what Becky Chambers comes up with next.  Arrr!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Hm ... I loved the trilogy by this author, but this ... We are reading the account of a member of an exploration force. Four humans have been altered slightly so that their skin can not only live with radiation in space but even convert it into energy to feed their bodies (amongst other things). The philiosophy being that one shouldn't change a planet they are exploring but change oneself to fit in on the new planet. The group's job is to explore a number of places (a frozen moon Hm ... I loved the trilogy by this author, but this ... We are reading the account of a member of an exploration force. Four humans have been altered slightly so that their skin can not only live with radiation in space but even convert it into energy to feed their bodies (amongst other things). The philiosophy being that one shouldn't change a planet they are exploring but change oneself to fit in on the new planet. The group's job is to explore a number of places (a frozen moon to start with) and see if any are viable for human habitation because, once again, humanity has not been kind to Mother Earth. This account is a plea from the group, their flight engineer in particular. A plea for what? Well, read and find out. I have to state first and foremost that I LOVE exploration stories. From the movie and subsequent TV show Lost in Space to innumerable other examples both in literature and on screen. Maybe because the possibilities are endless and creators/writers can play with really cool or even weird ideas. However, while the writing style was amiable and familiar, I didn't really click with any of those characters. One thing, for example, that annoys me in many modern scifi stories is how "in" it is to portray a future human society (view spoiler)[as "open" and "enlightened" by showing that everyone fucks everbody else. I mean, what does that have to do with anything?! And when we're talking about a crew of four, I also see emotional and psychological problems with that (hide spoiler)] . Like I said, just one example, but there were more that simply made these people ... not my cuppa. Maybe that was why I didn't really care what happened to them or what happened in the overall story. The book is pretty short and yet my reading got dragged out (and no, not just because it was print and I barely have time to read print anymore). Don't get me wrong though: it's not a bad or completely boring book. But the way she presented the space exploration as well as the exploration of inter-personal relationships, the science and the humanity, was nothing new - there was no twist to it and no cozy feeling. I know this author can do better, especially with the characterizations, which is why I think it's a shame.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hollis

    I really don't know what to say about this book. I'm coming to it months after the reviews of so many others, all of whom are far more eloquent than me. I just know that this story lulled me into loving it. It was a slow, smart, heartwrenching, and thoughtful, seduction. I'm an observer, not a conqueror. I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch : changing myself to suit them. Read this book. Full review (though, tbh, it's not much longer than this..) I really don't know what to say about this book. I'm coming to it months after the reviews of so many others, all of whom are far more eloquent than me. I just know that this story lulled me into loving it. It was a slow, smart, heartwrenching, and thoughtful, seduction. I'm an observer, not a conqueror. I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch : changing myself to suit them. Read this book. Full review (though, tbh, it's not much longer than this..) to come on the blog! ** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    A lovely, hopeful book. A love letter to science, a meditation on the wonder of space and discovery, both without and within.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Wagner

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. [Barely 2.5 stars] In the stand-alone novella To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers takes a break from her Wayfarers universe, delivering an exploration-themed space opera. It doesn’t break much new ground for her as a storyteller. But it’s so earnest and heartfelt that even readers who aren’t Chambers’ most ardent fans should respond well to it. Chambers shows improvement in areas where, to put it politely, I have not been as enamored of her work as pretty much everyone else in fandom. For instanc [Barely 2.5 stars] In the stand-alone novella To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers takes a break from her Wayfarers universe, delivering an exploration-themed space opera. It doesn’t break much new ground for her as a storyteller. But it’s so earnest and heartfelt that even readers who aren’t Chambers’ most ardent fans should respond well to it. Chambers shows improvement in areas where, to put it politely, I have not been as enamored of her work as pretty much everyone else in fandom. For instance, her approach to character — which has always struck me as cloying — has developed to the point where everyone in this story more or less rings true as a person, though not everyone shows equal levels of depth. What I will happily praise about this story is that it offers — in spades — that unabashed sense of wonder about the universe that is the hallmark of the very best science fiction. Chambers’ crew of explorers aren’t the dispassionate, faceless scientists of the Campbell era, thank god. They’re professionals who are meticulous about procedure and can yet gush in childlike glee at the sight of an alien fish swimming underneath ice. The thrill of discovery, of being the first human eyes to see other worlds, pervades this book so completely that the comparative lack of it in so much current SF really stands out in contrast. It’s why we love SF in the first place. On the downside, Chambers is still weak on conflict. And, worst of all, she leaves us with an ending that, while I understand the intent of its message, is about as misguided as any ending I’ve read in a science fiction story since Jack McDevitt’s Omega. It’s an ending that will, shall we say, generate a lot of argument. (continued...)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    "Are astronauts still relevant in your time?" is the final question of this novella-a love song to all those who find joy in learning about the world, any world. With scientific details added that the narrator wonders if the reader will skip over I came away thinking about our moment in time and wondering if a second question should be, "Is science still relevant in our time?"

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roz

    4.5 stars What an amazing short story! It was a breath of fresh air after the books I’ve been picking up.

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