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Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.



As someone who grew up watching Star Trek, I’m always excited to find a Sci-Fi that’s about exploration. I really do love a good conflict and the unique scenarios that the Science Fiction genre can present, but every so often it’s nice to sit back with a novella like this one and enjoy the journey of exploration and let the excitement of discovery pull me along the way.

I’m an observer, not a conqueror. I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch: changing myself to suit them.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The story follows Ariadne and her crewmates as they traverse through a solar system that has revealed itself to be capable of inhabiting life forms. As scientists, they merely arrive, create as little impact as possible as they study, send data back to Earth, and then move on. Each planet presents a different scenario, a different philosophical and ethical question, and a different challenge to human emotions that occur alongside the scientific method.

There is a lot of philosophizing and a lot of questions asked by Ariadne as we follow her thoughts and mindsets throughout the story, and at times I felt that all the ruminating was a little much, but it also makes sense because it portrays the amount of time these explorers have inside their own heads and the questions they ask of themselves and their mission.

I really appreciated the progression of the story and how emotions and energy changes as the news from Earth changes and each planet’s challenge seems to get more challenging than the last. For a short book, To Be Taught, If Fortunate creates a powerful impact with the reader as the characters experience the very philosophical quandaries they’ve been considering.

“You’ve always been a guy who likes flipping over rocks.”
“Yes, I like it. The animals underneath do not. Say there are worms under the rock. Worms hate sunlight. It hurts them. Is it fair to the worms, to cause them pain so that I know more about them?”
“You always put the rock back. We always put the rocks back.”
“It still hurts before we do so. Is that a fair trade, their pain for our knowledge?”

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate was the first book by Becky Chambers that I’ve read and it has interested me enough to read more of her works in the future. Have you read more of Becky Chambers’s works? If so, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.