First, a fan girl moment: As if I needed another reason to declare Becky Chambers a genius. I would read this woman’s grocery lists.
Like the Wayfarers series, this novella really defies plot summaries (the plot isn’t the point). Where the Wayfarer books examined life in a universe with many forms of intelligent alien life (and all the societal implications of that universe), this story finds the middle ground between today’s reality and that distant future. It explores those early stages of space exploration, both its virtues and its dangers. Where do you draw ethical lines when exploring other worlds? What toll does decades of space travel take on your body and your mental state? And what do you do when you’re alone, not only out in space but also alone in your mission?
Like all Chambers I’ve read, her writing is poignant without being saccharine, wholesome without losing its edge. When it came to the end, and I learned where the title came from, I couldn’t help but become a puddle of goo in my office elevator, off to tout space exploration to anyone who’d listen.
Is this novella for you? Maybe not. But for me, it’s exactly the kind of refreshing take on science fiction that I need.
Now I’m off to read The Vela and to eagerly await the next Wayfarers installment.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers Read on audio, narrated by Brittany Pressley