BooksOfTheMoon

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

By Becky Chambers

Rating: 4 stars

In the 22nd century, humans have cracked one of the big problems in spaceflight: how to keep humans alive outwith the safe, nurturing environment of Earth. Their answer: somaforming. Instead of changing the environment to suit the human, they change the human to suit the environment (on a limited scale at least; generally minor changes, where the recipient is still recognisable as human). Ariadne O’Neill and her three shipmates are members of a crew (Lawki 6) sent to the planets of a star, fourteen light years from Earth to investigate its planets in the name of exploration and the drive for human knowledge.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed the simple steadfastness of our protagonist and her shipmates, their love for each other and the fact that Chambers avoids the obvious impulse to have conflict between the crewmates to drive the plot. She doesn’t do that, and I think the book is all the stronger for it.

I also love the science-driven nature of the plot. Lawki 6 is a pure science mission, privately funded without any desire to terraform or exploit what they find. They tread lightly, find joy in their discoveries, and weep when they accidentally kill some of the life they find. Chambers describes this with a light touch that nonetheless touched me to my core.

There’s a deep ambivalence around the ending which could be incredibly positive or very depressing, depending on what happens next. Chambers leaves this to our imaginations, and I choose to believe in the more positive choice. I choose to believe that Earth responds to the message that Ariadne sends and whichever direction they go, they will do so with joy in their heart and the blessing of their home.

PS: I googled ‘Lawki’, and it could be either a place in Poland, or an acronym for “Life As We Know It”, which seems more relevant.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473697188

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