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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate (edition 2019)

by Becky Chambers (Author)

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1467127,154 (4.24)11
In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the galaxy transform themselves. *FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR* 'Extraordinary . . . A future masterwork' Joanne Harris 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, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening. PRAISE FOR THE WAYFARERS 'Becky Chambers is a wonder, and I feel better for having her books in my life' JOHN CONNOLLY 'In a word, brilliant' ANDREW CALDECOTT 'A short but fierce ode to humanity and all our reaches and flaws. Unputdownable' NATASHA NGAN 'Outstanding . . . Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise' PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review 'Becky Chambers takes space opera in a whole new and unexpected direction' BEN AARONOVITCH… (more)
Title:To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Authors:Becky Chambers (Author)
Info:Harper Voyager (2019), 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction

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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers


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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I had been meaning to read something by Chambers, who won the Hugo Award for best series in 2019, and this novella, about the exploration of another stellar system, was a good choice. The four members of an interstellar expedition come out of hibernation and visit the new star's planets. Earth is fourteen light years away, the speed of light is an absolute limit, and all news from home is old.

The story is eventful, but skips over the sorts of conflict and peril common in exploration stories. There are no villains. Rather, the story's turning points, told through the point of view of ship's engineer Ariadne, are the many discoveries that the diverse crew makes on four very different exoplanets. Obstacles arise, but the spacefarers always find some more or less satisfactory way around them.

The pleasure presented here is to share in the crew's experience; consumed by their work, ever renewing their joy in scientific discovery. A typical encounter, on an ice-covered moon with water beneath the ice cover:

She grabbed my arm. "Oh, my god."
Adrenaline shot through me. "What?"
"Turn off your lights." I did. She did. "Look," she said, pointing.
Red. A small patch of soft, fluorescent red, shining quietly up through a hazy pane of ice.
It moved.
But the ice muted the light, blurring its edges, scattering it in hazy auras that shimmered well beyond the source. New colors joined the party - orange, pink - and new shapes as well. There were snake-like things, full bodied things, worms and flowers and combs. Some shoaled by the dozens. Some travelled alone. Some bobbed. Some chased. The ice sheet below us became a luminescent symphony (...) Imagine a summer carnival behind a wintered windowpane. Imagine the most fabulous aurora you've ever seen, shining below your feet.

The book feels like a modern echo of the sense-of-wonder stories of the 1930s. ( )
2 vote dukedom_enough | Nov 5, 2019 |
Genuinely amazing. ( )
  RobotBirdHead | Oct 21, 2019 |
A message in a "bottle" narrative which describes the voyage of one of a number a publicly funded space explorations. Using a modest palette of notions the encounters on the planetary bodies of a system are wondrous and baleful or both. ( )
  quondame | Sep 27, 2019 |
I loved this. I think I'll forever love whatever Chambers puts out at this point. This is a nice novella about a small group of humans exploring space and documenting their experiences and findings for the sake of knowledge. Earth isn't doing so hot, but many of it's citizens still felt it important to keep space research alive - not even just for the sake of finding another planet to colonize, but just for knowing.

This felt more tech-heavy than the Wayfarers series (even though that's pretty scientific too), yet through the voice of Ariadne, Chambers makes it pretty easy to understand and interesting. Sometimes I get bored with hard-scifi because my brain just can't comprehend what's going on. Not the case here. My copy had a Q&A section in the back where Chambers talks about the research her mother helped her with and it a nice added layer to the story.

I'm eager to read any other books/novellas Chambers puts out. This is great if you need a quick dose of sci-fi. Sometimes I get pouty with novellas because I feel like they're too short. This was the perfect length, though I would have loved for it to be longer simply to read more of Chambers's work! ( )
  MillieHennessy | Sep 21, 2019 |
Another great story from Becky Chambers. This novella is very well-written and a pleasure to read. ( )
  KatyBee | Sep 14, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (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 (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Becky Chambersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aquan, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chen, NatalieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seeley, DaveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winans, AlyssaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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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