9 Feb 2024

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers (Review)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


Author: Becky Chambers
Series: N/A
Source: Gifted at Christmas
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Representation: queer characters

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 subzero 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 journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life.

A team of these explorers, Ariadne O’Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

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Content Warning: animal death, confinement, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, grief, sexual content, depression

This was such an interesting and thought-provoking read about decisions we make and the impact we have on others. Like a lot of other Becky Chambers novels, this one is encouched in "science" that really just explores the idea of how we can associate ourselves to others through atypical means.

I really like books with queer characters, found family, and overall queer themes, so To Be Taught, If Fortunate appealed to all these elements for me. It has a strong focus on the relationship between the characters and their journey of self-discovery, which is a typical aspect of Becky Chambers books.

This is a pretty short novel but it packs a lot of information and themes into it. I thought it was so interesting to see the idea of how different worlds create different feelings in people, the need to take as little as possible while still enough to gain knowledge, and the leaving with no trace behind. It felt like a camping trip in space, which made it pretty interesting.

I think the ending was really well crafted. I wish the conversation had been a little longer to get a bit more perspective on how they wanted to continue onwards, especially because it ended pretty shortly thereafter. I would have liked a bit more discussion about the importance of how you make decisions that affective a collective rather than being "selfish."

To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a great read if you're interested in a thought-provoking and emotional journey that explores the wonders of space and the transformative power of human connection. Do be cautioned that the animal death scene is very traumatizing and leads the characters into a pretty heavy state of depression.

Are you going to pick this one up?


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