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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Sci-fi, Space Opera
Pages: 176 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 8th August 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton (UK) & 3rd September 2019 Harper Voyager (US)
This may surprise you, but unlike The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, I actually enjoyed reading To Be Taught, If Fortunate.
Becky Chambers is most often known for her work on Wayfarers series, a space-opera series that many people have called the ultimate feel-good space opera or literary hugs. Admittedly, I haven’t finished reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, either I was in the wrong reading mood, or maybe it indeed just wasn’t for me; I ended up DNFing the book at 25-30% mark, twice. However, hearing that one of my favorite booktubers, Emily Fox, loved Becky Chambers’s works so much, I decided to give To Be Taught, If Fortunate, a standalone space-opera novella separate from the Wayfarers series, a try. Verdict? I liked it.
“Don’t believe the lie of individual trees, each a monument to its own self-made success. A forest is an interdependent community. Resources are shared, and life in isolation is a death sentence.”
The story in To Be Taught, If Fortunate follow Ariadne and her three crewmates as they went on an expedition to survey four habitable worlds. I believe that this novella can be considered a hard sci-fi; there’s a lot of calculated discussion on science and biology. I think what I liked most about this novella was Chambers’s prose; it flows really well, and this short book was able to capture my attention thoroughly. Unlike The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet which bored me, I feel like there are moments of tension in the plot, and the dilemma that the four main characters faced in their pursuit of knowledge was efficient and effectively well-written.
“It is difficult to give thought to the stars when the ground is swallowing you up.”
As you can probably guess from Becky Chambers, though, despite some of the intensity, this is at its core, a thought-provoking and hopeful book. I don’t think Chambers will ever write a grim sci-fi; even from the interview she did with her mother at the end of the book, it’s quite clear that despite the bleak reality of our world, Chambers remains a hopeful person. What didn’t click for me, however, was the communication report storytelling format and the short length of the novella itself—it took me about one to two hours to finish—that didn’t allow enough characterizations for the characters for me to care for. I actually wished that this was a longer book. I did enjoy reading To Be Taught, If Fortunate, I may not find myself completely enamored with this one like many of her fans did, but in the aspect of keeping hope, I will keep my fingers crossed that in the future, when the reading mood is right, maybe I’ll attempt and enjoy reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet more than my previous attempts.
“The amount a person can spare is relative; the value of generosity is not.”
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