Book Review

Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I massively admire any author that can get across an impressive amount of detail, personal nuance and general backstory in a short novel. This is my first foray into Becky Chambers’ writing and I definitely wasn’t disappointed – and I expect it won’t be my last.

Title: To Be Taught, If Fortunate To Be Taught
Becky Chambers
Pages: 160
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 8th August 2019
Ownership: Own copy

Rating: 5 stars

Sent off-world in a fact-finding mission across four moons in a distant solar system, the crew of the Merian are sending back a missive to Earth. We don’t yet know what has caused this report, but it is a great way of introducing the characters, the technology and the ethos behind these missions.

Rather than terraforming and forcing planets to conform to humanity’s needs, these explorers have somaforming – adapting their bodies whilst ‘sleeping’ between locations – to fit in with their surroundings.

And, just as the narrator suggestions, each phase, each moon they visit, is a metamorphosis of sorts. Quite literally and physically, but also as Ariadne, Elena, Jack and Chikondi going through phases in their own experience, ready to emerge to something completely new.

Meanwhile, time passes on Earth, fourteen years distant from the scientists. Ariadne and the crew don’t quite know what to expect – whether there will be war, famine, global destruction or peace. They’ve already said a final farewell to their families – will they also need to say goodbye to their planet?

On the final excursion, on Votum, there’s a beautiful moment of absolute isolation, as Ariadne recovers from her previous experience. She takes walks, revels in the desolated landscape around her. Very fitting for my own current mood…

It’s sci fi written in a clear, relatable way that is easy to understand but also to reflect on. For the first 20 pages or so, I found that style a little cold and hard to read, but quickly got into it. I also liked that there was no big things made about the characters’ sexuality or anything – they just were.

I’m really pleased I picked this novella up (thanks Kindle sale!), as I’ve seen Chambers’ writing around, and had been recommended it too. I’ll definitely be looking for more opportunities to read her work.


6 thoughts on “Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

  1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one too! I was so surprised by how well this author captured my interest and managed to create a layered story within such a small page count. Fab review Hannah! 😊

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I love it when an author can capture so much in such a short story. I felt the same feels when reading This is How You Lose the Time War. It’s made me so much more open to shorter books than my usual chonky ones!

      1. I haven’t read This is How You Lose the Time War but have been keeping my eye out on it for my TBR. If it’s anything like To Be Taught, If Fortunate I’m definitely adding it! Thanks for the recommendation Hannah 🙂

  2. YES. YES. FIVE STARS. YES! I freaking love Becky Chambers. She writes the smartest speculative fiction and yet makes me feel all warm and fuzzy??? This novella was phenomenal I thought. How she packed so much in…and yet it wasn’t overdone! I repeat. I love Becky Chambers!!!

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