To Be Taught, If Fortunate

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

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. Adriane 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...

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Title:To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Author:Becky Chambers
Rating:
Edition Language:English

To Be Taught, If Fortunate Reviews

  • Roz

    4.5 stars

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 made me

    [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.

  • Justine

    Originally posted to

    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

    wasn’t going to be a continuation of her Wayfarers books. However I completely trust Becky to give

    Originally posted to

    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

    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 --

    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.

    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

    blows all other works out of the water with its displays of unselfish compassion.

    This novella is a little like a combination of

    's plot-y structure and her slice of life masterpiece

    . However,

    is unlike her other books, which are probably best known for their deep character insights. You don’t get to know the characters in

    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. 

    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.

  • wanderer (Para)

    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 

    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 ano

    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 

    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

    . 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

    , 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

    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,

    , 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.

    first half 3.5/5, second half 5/5

    5/5

    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)

    people who hate infodumps, those expecting something heartwarming

  • Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    I received this from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!

    This is not a bad book! I just didn't like it as much as I wanted to! Which makes me very sad!

    So, this is going to be a short review because I don't have much to say about the novella.

    For the record, novellas aren't my favorite thing in the world. I'm also not too huge on short stories. But, I do love Becky Chambers and thought that if anyone could bring me over to loving them, it would be her.

    And this isn't bad. A group of fou

    I received this from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!

    This is not a bad book! I just didn't like it as much as I wanted to! Which makes me very sad!

    So, this is going to be a short review because I don't have much to say about the novella.

    For the record, novellas aren't my favorite thing in the world. I'm also not too huge on short stories. But, I do love Becky Chambers and thought that if anyone could bring me over to loving them, it would be her.

    And this isn't bad. A group of four people -- Adriane, Elena, Jack, and Chikondi -- leave the Earth for a space mission. They're going out to explore space, but they have to sleep for decades before that, to wake up and have no idea what has happened. Does the Earth still exist? Is anyone keeping track of them? Are their families alive? Those questions because, most likely, they won't be going back.

    One thing I really enjoyed about this book was that Chambers wove diversity into this without a problem. Chikondi is on the page ace -- Adriane mentions that he's not interested in sex whatsoever -- and there's definitely a romantic relationship between Adriane and Elena. I really enjoyed that because it's not all the time that I get to see it confirmed that a character is ace.

    But, the plot is hard to decipher. It reminded me of 

    , which was, to me, a bunch of character studies going towards a very clear event/place. Each chapter in that was different and built up a new character or relationship. And this is a lot like that, but it doesn't have the same space to make me attached to the characters or world. This book isn't even 150 pages and is only five chapters. That's not a lot of space.

    So, while I enjoyed it, it felt as if it could be stronger. I think that on a second read, I would like this book better, but it left me feeling unsatisfied. I wanted more to it. I wanted to know more and get really attached to the characters. That just didn't happen.

  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

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

  • 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.

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