Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Borrowed

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.

Ariadne 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 different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.

Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

Carrying all the trademarks of her other beloved works, including brilliant writing, fantastic world-building and exceptional, diverse characters, Becky’s first audiobook outside of the Wayfarers series is sure to capture the imagination of listeners all over the world.

I’ve only ever seen good things about Becky Chambers’ books, so when I saw this novella pop up at my library, I figured it was as good a time as any to give her writing a try. I guess that, after finishing, I just feel kind of conflicted.

On the one hand, the writing is really good! The setting is super vivid. There’s a ton of casual diversity and it’s never a thing, it just exists. On the other hand, very little actually happens. This novella is only 153 pages and it dragged. I kept waiting for something to actually happen and it never really did.

I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly I felt about this book until my boyfriend asked me what I thought of it. I blurted out, “It felt more like an exercise in worldbuilding than a real book,” and you know what? That’s exactly it. The four characters explore some worlds — and they’re really well-written worlds, with their own plants and wildlife — but that’s it. I mean, sure, there’s a message in there about humanity and whatnot, but that wasn’t enough for me to feel like I’d read an actual book and not just a ton of description.

I’m not mad that I took the time to listen to this one, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more of Chambers’ books any time soon.


Have you read To Be Taught, If Fortunate? Is it on your TBR?
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