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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
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To Be Taught, If Fortunate (edition 2019)

by Becky Chambers (Author)

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5665630,529 (4.13)43
"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. A team of these explorers, Ariadne O'Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening."--… (more)
Member:evareads
Title:To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Authors:Becky Chambers (Author)
Info:Harper Voyager (2019), 176 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:science fiction

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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

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» See also 43 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I'd wanted to read a book by Becky Chambers for a while, and this seemed like a gentle introduction to her work. I really, really enjoyed it, and I will definitely pick up other things she's written when I get a chance.

The four characters in this book form a crew sent from Earth to explore four alien worlds, studying the environment and lifeforms on each. Between worlds, the astronauts are put into states of torpor--essentially in suspended animation, they reemerge upon arriving on a new world. With these dramatic gaps in consciousness due to their travel, they also have to try to make sense of the fragmentary and belated news that they receive from Earth as time there progresses much more quickly (due to relativity) than it does to the astronauts.

I deeply enjoyed this book. The descriptions were lovely, and the whole atmosphere felt slightly dream-like to me, in a really lovely way. I'm not giving it five stars because I do wish it had been a bit longer--in some places in this book, subtlety and brief mentions went a long way for me, but I do with that there had been a bit more elaboration at the ending. ( )
  forsanolim | Nov 20, 2020 |
Chambers is one of those authors who can bring rich emotional tapestries to science fiction worlds. She's also a queen of representation of lgbt characters. This book is no exception to those descriptions. My only problem with this book is that I needed more. That ending was an absolute cliffhanger. I want to know what happened! I know what she was going for, but don't leave me like this, story writers! Also, this story made me feel weirdly validated by the mention of an ambi person who was forced to be right-handed, the astronauts being basically a polycule, and the absolute love of science displayed by these characters. This whole thing was a joy to read. Well, maybe not Opera. That was hard. ( )
  Noeshia | Oct 23, 2020 |
In recent times I’ve often seen my fellow bloggers write enthusiastic reviews of Becky Chambers’ novels, and curiosity drove me to add her first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, to my TBR, but it was a comment about this novella that compelled me to start with her latest work, both because it afforded a quick peek into this author’s writing style and because of its intriguing concept of somaforming - the adaptation of the human body to alien environments in antithesis to the change of environment, or terraforming as a means to create a suitable living space.

This initial detail is what informs the structure, the soul of the story if you want: a team of four scientists - Ariadne, Chikondi, Elena, and Jack - depart from Earth on the Merian, a long-range ship tasked with the exploration of a promising planetary system. Since the voyage will take several decades, the four explorers will go into suspended animation while in transit and during that time their bodies will undergo the necessary transformations that will allow them to survive in extreme conditions, like higher gravity or radiation exposure. The story is told in the form of a message/diary sent by Ariadne back to Earth, and from it we learn about the overcrowding and environmental troubles in our home planet, conditions that are driving humanity to search for viable places for colonies: what’s interesting here is that such expeditions are funded by a non-profit organization based on what essentially sounds like crowdfunding, which allows for a purely scientific research free from any kind of corporate exploitation.

The tone of the novella is set by the sense of wonder coming across in the descriptions of the four planets visited by the explorers, the awe created by such diverse and astonishing landscapes: the four scientists are naturally intrigued by their findings and the discoveries they make in their travels, but they are also capable of pure joy at the alien vistas opening before their eyes.

As an astronaut, you know conceptually that you’re going to another world, that you’re going to see alien life. You know this, and yet there is nothing that can prepare you for it.

There is also a strong sense of family uniting them as well, the unspoken but ever-present awareness that they depend on each other in this little pocket of home away from home, and the definite sense of effortlessness in the ties that have come to bind them: shared love of pure science, of course, but also the realization that their individualities contribute to the healthy whole that is the Merian’s microcosm.

Love of science - a science imbued with that sense of wonder and joy of discovery I spoke before, and therefore free from any pedantic connotation - and love of knowledge for its own sake are the underlying themes of the story and they stand at the root of the final conundrum facing the four explorers: a difficult decision that they don’t feel entitled to take on their own because it requires the support of all those who sent them into deep space to find the answers Earth needs. Just as the crew of the Merian did not travel so long with conquest or profit in mind, so they feel the need to engage their backers - or their descendants - in the next choice to be made: being so far away from home does not free them from the responsibilities and the moral obligations that have driven them so far, and so the poignant core of Ariadne’s message is “Where we go from there is up to you”, the willingness to share discoveries and goals and to invest in the hope for humanity’s future.

If this first sample of Becky Chamber’s writing is indicative of what I can expect from her longer works, I believe I will quite enjoy the full-length novels I already set my eyes on… ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Oct 16, 2020 |
This novel reads more as 4 space exploration short stories tied together into a novella. They are different in tone and phases.

I personally enjoyed the first two stories a lot, smiling while listening to the book. Then the tone went from a journey of discovery to a more serious setting and my enjoyment dropped a lot. For the first half I would have happily rated it as the best thing I've read this year. With the second half dragging it down it is still above average. ( )
  Sosseres | Sep 22, 2020 |
I really enjoyed this little book, but it is very different from the Wayfarers series. It’s not delightful or heartwarming, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just be aware, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Ok maybe my heart is slightly warmed. But I don’t feel like I just emerged from the best hug I’ve had in a while. Which, like I said, is fine! ( )
  mmsmcetc | Sep 17, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
There’s a quiet beauty to Chambers’ writing that envelops you in her story and holds you tight until the very end. Proof that a novel doesn’t have to have hundreds of pages to be impressive.
added by g33kgrrl | editCulturefly, Natalie Xenos (Aug 8, 2019)
 
With technical prowess and outstanding visceral imagery, Chambers (the Wayfarer Series) packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Becky Chambersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aquan, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chambers, NikkiContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chen, NatalieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seeley, DaveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winans, AlyssaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To Emily, who doesn't have to read this, but did make me think the right thing.
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Please Read This

If you read nothing else we've sent home, please at least read this.
Quotations
I know how much a world can change within the bookends of a lifetime.
The awesome, fragile humility of knowing you're the only human around for miles. (p. 30)
I didn't see a waste ... [in] that vast, echoing flatland, I saw exactly what my soul had longed for. A quiet place. A blank slate. A reality in which everything held still for however long I needed it to. It was not exciting, but neither was it frightening. It was not compelling, but neither was it overwhelming. It was, pure and simple. (p. 116)
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 greeting 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 all 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
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"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. A team of these explorers, Ariadne O'Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening."--

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