To Be Taught, If Fortunate
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. Adriane 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.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate Details

TitleTo Be Taught, If Fortunate
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 3rd, 2019
PublisherHarper Voyager
ISBN-139780062936011
Rating
GenreScience Fiction, Fiction, Novella, Adult

To Be Taught, If Fortunate Review

  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
    January 1, 1970
    Oh look another book I need to add to my ever growing TBR!
  • Joanne Harris
    January 1, 1970
    Since I first read Joanna Russ' WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO... I've had a hole in my heart. This book healed it. This extraordinary novella proves that you don't have to write a long book to pack a big punch. Becky Chambers' writing gets better and better with everything she writes, and this is no exception. Every sentence is perfectly balanced without attracting unnecessary attention; characterization is subtle but effective; and the impact of the ending is everything I hoped it would be. A future sci- Since I first read Joanna Russ' WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO... I've had a hole in my heart. This book healed it. This extraordinary novella proves that you don't have to write a long book to pack a big punch. Becky Chambers' writing gets better and better with everything she writes, and this is no exception. Every sentence is perfectly balanced without attracting unnecessary attention; characterization is subtle but effective; and the impact of the ending is everything I hoped it would be. A future sci-fi masterwork in a new and welcome tradition.
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  • Natasha Ngan
    January 1, 1970
    THE MARTIAN meets INTERSTELLAR, this is high-concept speculative fic at its finest. Rendered with startling clarity, Chambers' latest offering is a short but fierce ode to humanity and all our reaches and flaws. Unputdownable.
  • Justine
    January 1, 1970
    Originally posted to I Should Read ThatI received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.You all know how passionately I love Becky Chambers’ books -- she’s one of my favourite authors and consistently puts out incredible stories. When her next release was announced, I was initially a little disappointed that To Be Taught, If Fortunate wasn’t going to be a continuation of her Wayfarers books. However I completely trust Becky to give Originally posted to I Should Read ThatI received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.You all know how passionately I love Becky Chambers’ books -- she’s one of my favourite authors and consistently puts out incredible stories. When her next release was announced, I was initially a little disappointed that To Be Taught, If Fortunate wasn’t going to be a continuation of her Wayfarers books. However I completely trust Becky to give me the gorgeous, quiet stories I crave. My faith in Becky Chambers remains -- To Be Taught, If Fortunate is the beautiful, gentle tale of human exploration that I never knew I needed.To me, Becky Chambers’s books have always represented what humankind could be if we stopped being awful and had more consideration for each other and the universe around us. To Be Taught, If Fortunate is the best example of this, particularly with the idea of somaforming -- the way in which astronauts adapt their bodies to their environments rather than terraform a planet to adapt to them. This is the most beautifully human idea in science fictional space travel I’ve read. I absolutely love anything that deals with space exploration, hence my passionate love of Star Trek, but To Be Taught, If Fortunate blows all other works out of the water with its displays of unselfish compassion.This novella is a little like a combination of A Closed and Common Orbit's plot-y structure and her slice of life masterpiece Record of a Spaceborn Few. However, To Be Taught, If Fortunate is unlike her other books, which are probably best known for their deep character insights. You don’t get to know the characters in To Be Taught, If Fortunate as well as you do in her full length novels. However, I didn’t mind this as the story drew out enough of the characters traits, particularly Ariadne, to make them compelling and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the subtleties that Chambers includes to help draw a picture of the way they live and interact, as well as how their mission so perfectly suits them. To Be Taught, If Fortunate is like a warm hug. It’s a shorter story than we are used to from Chambers, however it features the heart and humanity that I’ve come to associate with her work. I couldn’t recommend this book more highly to fans of her Wayfarers series, as well as newcomers to her work that love science fiction that deals with space travel and exploration.
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  • Lauren James
    January 1, 1970
    [Gifted]A near-future look at a manned mission to research primitive alien life outside the solar system. The crew wear patches that alter their genes to adapt to each planet - making their skin glitter on low-light moons, giving them more muscle strength on high gravity planets, etc. The alien lifeforms are fascinating and distinctly non-Earthian. I loved the crew too - some amazing diversity of race and sexuality for only 4 characters. The ending really struck a chord with me too - it made me [Gifted]A near-future look at a manned mission to research primitive alien life outside the solar system. The crew wear patches that alter their genes to adapt to each planet - making their skin glitter on low-light moons, giving them more muscle strength on high gravity planets, etc. The alien lifeforms are fascinating and distinctly non-Earthian. I loved the crew too - some amazing diversity of race and sexuality for only 4 characters. The ending really struck a chord with me too - it made me think a lot about what the true purpose of space travel might be, and what we hope to get out of it as a race.
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  • Laura Lam
    January 1, 1970
    Why did I make the mistake of reading this while I'm first drafting something. Another beautiful offering from one of my favourite writers.
  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    Becky Chambers' star rose very quickly with her debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the first in the 'Wayfarers' trilogy. The other two followed in quick succession: A Closed and Common Orbit and Record of a Spaceborn Few. The stories aren't hard SF, have a more humanistic side and are a positive change among the gazillion other SF-novels.I reviewed the books here, here, and here.Anno 2019, a smaller book sees the light of day: 'To Be Taught, If Fortunate'. This title comes from t Becky Chambers' star rose very quickly with her debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the first in the 'Wayfarers' trilogy. The other two followed in quick succession: A Closed and Common Orbit and Record of a Spaceborn Few. The stories aren't hard SF, have a more humanistic side and are a positive change among the gazillion other SF-novels.I reviewed the books here, here, and here.Anno 2019, a smaller book sees the light of day: 'To Be Taught, If Fortunate'. This title comes from the speech from former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, whose 1977 speech - which is also added at the end of this book - made it onto the Voyager Golden Record (Nasa-link) that was shot into space for alien beings to pick up, should there be such a presence elsewhere in space. In other words, is there intelligent life elsewhere in space? Man can't be the only species, nor can Earth be the only habitable planet, or can they?----------To Be Taught, If Fortunate contains four linked stories, in which we again follow a crew of, this time 4, astronauts who are on a mission to seek alien life forms. The time period is close to the 22nd century. They are part of the Lawki space-programme and represent the sixth crew, thus Lawki 6. Crewmembers on the OCA spacecraft Merian are Ariadne O'Neill (who's in charge), Elena Quesada-Cruz, Jack Vo, and Chikondi Daka. Each of them have their own specialities and characteristics.The crew gets regular mission updates and news from Earth. As there is a difference of fourteen years, the news updates are always history. Same thing for communication in the opposite direction: It takes fourteen years for mission reports to reach Earth.The mission is clear: visit four habitable worlds (Aecor, Mirabilis, Opera, and Votum) (click here for more info on habitability of red dwarf systems) around the red dwarf Zhenyi (BA-921) and find out what life exists on these exoplanets (planets that don't orbit Earth's sun), mainly with regards to fauna. Make drawings, shoot photos, record videos, ... and catalogue everything. However, they can't use Earth's categories to indicate what species they find. Creatures may look like their Earth variants, but differ in several aspects, hence the characters using new acronyms.Each planet does inhabit life, has its own characteristics in terms of G-force, climate, and more. The crew therefore has been given patches to adapt their bodies according to the circumstances (influences in muscle, bone-structure, and so on). Before embarking on this mission, they were put into a long sleep, torpor. As they approached their first planet (well, the icy moon of Aecor), the system awakes them.As you can imagine, not every landing yields positive results, especially not when the mission updates and maps don't align with the real situation (location, weather, ... causing our crew to make a decision on the spot, go for the pragmatic solution, be it good or not).----------It felt very good and informative to return to Mrs Chambers' world, even if it counts only 135 pages (length of the stories together). Her writing has evolved a bit and this little book feels more like non-fiction (you get a bit of information on red dwarfs and other space-related explanation) written as fiction, again with a touch of philosophy. The stories (there are four, one for each planet they visit) are told from the point of view of Ariadne O'Neill, which creates the impression that you're either on board with the crew or that you are sitting on the first row, watching the video report of the voyages.The big question remains: Is man alone in the universe? And what if he is when Earth is no longer the habitable planet of old? How will or can mankind survive in search of a new home? Supplies don't last forever, technology will go bust one day. Does intelligent life exist elsewhere, outside of our own solar system? What if we encounter such life? How will be approach it? How will it approach the astronauts? One important word here, whatever occurs: respect.----------On a side-note, was Mrs Chambers inspired by other sources for the names of the planets?* The game Spore? See Aecor* Another name from Spore: Votum* Space-Engine: Mirabilis
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  • wanderer (Para)
    January 1, 1970
    ARC received from the publisher (Harper Voyager) on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.And Becky Chambers has done it again. I know that's a cliché line to use in a review, but I wouldn't be surprised if in a few decades she will be remembered as one of the greats. This is the exact kind of thought-provoking, insightful, ultimately deeply human sci-fi that makes up the best the genre has to offer.However, I went in with entirely the wrong expectations so I will say this: don't expect ano ARC received from the publisher (Harper Voyager) on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.And Becky Chambers has done it again. I know that's a cliché line to use in a review, but I wouldn't be surprised if in a few decades she will be remembered as one of the greats. This is the exact kind of thought-provoking, insightful, ultimately deeply human sci-fi that makes up the best the genre has to offer.However, I went in with entirely the wrong expectations so I will say this: don't expect another Wayfarers. Expect discussion of the ethics of space exploration. Expect your mind to be blown, perhaps. But heartwarming, character-focused...forget it.For one, it's hard sci-fi. Harder than I'm used to, anyway.Ariadne is an engineer. Along with a crew of various scientists, she is on a mission to explore a few planets that may have life, fourteen or fifteen light years away from Earth. Because of that, all news are delayed. They survive worlds that would be hostile to normal humans through somaforming - bodily transformations induced by patches that can make them immune to radiation, or make their blood produce antifreeze, or give them increased bone density and muscle mass to adapt to stronger gravitation.I initially thought that I requested the wrong book. That even though I love Wayfarers, I am entirely the wrong audience. See, the first half of the novella is made up almost entirely of infodumps on science. And if there's anything I can't stand in sci-fi (rampant sexism of older works aside because that irritates me in every genre), it's that. I don't care about physics or biology or what have you. The questions posed were interesting, sure, it was all incredibly quotable and I struggled not to highlight everything, but there's only so much I can take before I lose my patience and start skimming. I have been told there is a point to it. I was unconvinced.But somehow, somehow, Chambers managed it. Right after the moment I started complaining (because of course), it picked up. There was more character interaction and less didactic narration. More about the worlds they visited, more things I care about. It's still a novella and I'd perhaps prefer a bit more details, as it's usually the case. But it felt perfectly whole. And the ending...! The ending made my jaw drop. It blew my mind. Perhaps it would not be the same for you. Perhaps by the time you read it, it will be discussed to death already. But I was stunned speechless.And I would love to see more set in this universe.How does one even rate a book with two utterly different halves? If you are a fan of hard sci-fi, I definitely recommend it. You will not have the same issues I had. If not...I still recommend it. The questions it raises are worth it, I promise.Enjoyment: first half 3.5/5, second half 5/5Execution: 5/5Recommended to: hard sci-fi fans, anyone looking for a short and seriously thought-provoking story, those looking for LGBTQ+ representation (one of the characters is trans)Not recommended to: people who hate infodumps, those expecting something heartwarmingMore reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
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  • Runalong
    January 1, 1970
    Oh wow - that was beautiful and a love letter to human curiosity, found families and science.Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...
  • Crini
    January 1, 1970
    I already had this on my most-anticipated list before I even knew what it was but "EXPLORERS OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM TRANSFORM THEMSELVES"!? GIMME NOW!
  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    Can’t decide between two stars or three (2.5 stars?). Review coming soon but am kinda disappointed & letdown over this.*Review Taken from The Pewter Wolf***eProof given by UK publisher, Hodder, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review/reaction***At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a discovery in human space travel. They discovered somaforming: a way for humans to survive hostile environments by using synthetic biological supplements. They can produce antifreeze so Can’t decide between two stars or three (2.5 stars?). Review coming soon but am kinda disappointed & letdown over this.*Review Taken from The Pewter Wolf***eProof given by UK publisher, Hodder, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review/reaction***At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a discovery in human space travel. They discovered somaforming: a way for humans to survive hostile environments by using synthetic biological supplements. They can produce antifreeze so you can survive sub-zero environments, absorb radiation and convert into food, help adjust the pul of different gravitational forces. This can make space travel possible and visiting other planets, moons, and other environments possible. Ariadne is an astronaut. She and three others are on a mission to survey four habitable worlds fifteen light years away from Earth. She and her crewmates sleep while in transit and, when they wake up, they have a new world to explore and the somaforming has changed their bodies, ready for the new world. I don’t think I can go any further in detail with this novella as I’m a little worried on what is a spoiler and what isn’t. But, you guys want me reactions to this… well… Ok, before we go any further, I want to remind you guys that this is my blog, which means this is just my opinions. Mine and mine alone. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether that is a good or bad. Remember I can be quite outspoken on subjects (politics, films, TV). Hell, have you seen my Twitter? But, even so, it pains me to write this: I didn’t like this. I found it boring and, because of this, I cancelled my preorder. Hear me out before you shout at me! I have read two of Becky Chambers novels and plan to read the third soon and I really like them. Yes, they are a little slower paced than what I normally read, but I like them. They are very character-driven and there’s something warm and comforting about her novels. But this novella didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was because it was a novella so we didn’t have time to connect to the characters or because this novella is told in first person while the novels are told in third, I don’t know. But I didn’t warm to this. Plus, after a long few days at work, I wanted to engage with these characters and the worlds and, barring one world where (view spoiler)[the characters began to show signs of cabin-fever (this, I really liked, as it showed how each of them reacted in different ways) (hide spoiler)], I kinda fell asleep a few times. I see what Becky was trying to do and I admit her for trying. I’m glad she was flexing her writing muscles and that she’s growing as a writer, but this didn’t really work for me, I’m afraid. But I’m not giving up on the Wayfarers series. I am going to read Record of a Spaceborn Few soon and, when her next novel come out, I am going to read that. But this… yeah… sorry everyone.
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  • Johan
    January 1, 1970
    What a lovely offering from Becky Chambers!In this short novel we follow four astronauts who travel together to four different planets in another solar system. They have been sent to study the planets and catalogue life if there is any to be found. News is sent to them from home, but it is old news by the time it reaches them.They do find life, and it is strange and marvellous. A fair amount of the book is scientific in nature, I learned bunches about organisms and categorising them.There is som What a lovely offering from Becky Chambers!In this short novel we follow four astronauts who travel together to four different planets in another solar system. They have been sent to study the planets and catalogue life if there is any to be found. News is sent to them from home, but it is old news by the time it reaches them.They do find life, and it is strange and marvellous. A fair amount of the book is scientific in nature, I learned bunches about organisms and categorising them.There is some plot, but don't expect a lot of it. It's got what it needs though.
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  • Yasser Ahmed
    January 1, 1970
    To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, aside from having an excellent title, is a short but sweet story touching on the quandaries of space exploration ethics while keeping Chambers' trademark positivity.
  • Emer (A Little Haze)
    January 1, 1970
    Becky Chambers is a freaking genius. If you have any interest in speculative fiction about where we as a species could be headed then you really need to pick up any of her books. 'To Be Taught If Fortunate' is a short novella about longterm space mission to study four planets light years away from Earth. There are four members of the crew of the OCA spacecraft Merian; Ariadne O'Neill, Elena Quesada-Cruz, Jack Vo and Chikondi Daka. But instead of getting caught up in stereotypical space opera sty Becky Chambers is a freaking genius. If you have any interest in speculative fiction about where we as a species could be headed then you really need to pick up any of her books. 'To Be Taught If Fortunate' is a short novella about longterm space mission to study four planets light years away from Earth. There are four members of the crew of the OCA spacecraft Merian; Ariadne O'Neill, Elena Quesada-Cruz, Jack Vo and Chikondi Daka. But instead of getting caught up in stereotypical space opera style events this book takes the form of a message sent back to Earth from the viewpoint of Ariadne who is the flight engineer onboard. And in this message are the details of their exploratory and investigatory mission so far... But also it reveals so much about what it means to be human. It poses probing questions asking about the importance of scientific research and whether a mission seeking knowledge is truly relevant to us as a species. Ariadne's message is split into four parts as the crew of the Merian visit four different planets: Aecor, Mirabilis, Opera and Votum. And on each planet we are treated to both easy to understand and incredibly fascinating speculative science as the crew engage in their information gathering and laboratory research. But we also get to delve into the psyches of these four people and how the mission affects each of them in different ways. This book is truly brilliant. Everything feels so authentic that I almost believed that I was reading a real space report... But it's the humanity of the piece that really captured me. So much so that I found myself crying at the end of the book because there was just so much heart and feeling in it. It's a book about what it truly means to be a human and as a trained research scientist myself I was both deeply moved by and really emotionally connected with the hunger and thirst for knowledge that was illustrated in the book. Highly recommendedfive stars As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organisation of one hundred and forty seven member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship - to teach, if we are called upon; to be taught, if we are fortunate. We know full well that our planet and its inhabitants are but a small part of this immense universe that surrounds us, and it is with humility and hope that we take this step. - Former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim,1977,as recorded on the Voyager Golden Record. For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog
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  • S. Naomi Scott
    January 1, 1970
    ** DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **To Be Taught, If Fortunate is Becky Chambers’ fourth book and the first not to be linked to her Wayfarer series in any way, and if you’re a fan of her earlier work then I think you’re almost certainly going to enjoy this one.It takes place in the twenty-second century, following the development of a technique known as somaforming. This is a selective and temporary fo ** DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **To Be Taught, If Fortunate is Becky Chambers’ fourth book and the first not to be linked to her Wayfarer series in any way, and if you’re a fan of her earlier work then I think you’re almost certainly going to enjoy this one.It takes place in the twenty-second century, following the development of a technique known as somaforming. This is a selective and temporary form of genetic modification that allows humankind to overcome the difficulties normally associated with long space journeys. This allows humanity to launch a series of small missions to nearby stars in search of life-bearing exoplanets.The story itself is told to us by Ariadne O’Neill, flight engineer and one of four crew aboard the Lawki 6 mission sent to a system fourteen lightyears out. Due to the distances involved and the lack of FTL travel the crew pass the journey to their target system (as well as their journeys once in-system) in a state of torpor, artificially induced hibernation, during which time their bodies are modified to make them more resilient to the harsh environments they expect to encounter. The details surrounding the somaforming and what it’s used for a covered quickly but efficiently before dropping us into the action as the mission ship, Merian, arrives at their first research site.The story is broken into four distinct parts, each pertaining to one of the four worlds the crew explores, introducing us to the various ecologies and environments of that far off solar system. These worlds are presented to us through the beautifully lush descriptions that will be familiar to readers of the author’s previous works, but it’s the way she captures the characters’ emotional and psychological development that really sets Chambers apart from so many others. Her writing is almost always focused on character first, situation second, and this is no exception. Even though the narrative is given through a single point of view, you quickly learn to identify the four individual crew members and empathise with them even when they’re not at their best.Despite this being a shorter than usual work for Chambers it doesn’t suffer from a lack of substance. The author raises several questions pertaining to humanity’s right to make its mark on the universe, and quite literally leaves the reader with the job of deciding for themselves if we should reach out to the stars, assuming we ever develop the ability to do so.As with all of Becky Chambers’ previous works, this isn’t action-driven, guns a-blazing science fiction. This is gentle sci-fi with plenty of heart, plenty of soul and plenty of feels for when you just want to curl up and feel a little bit cosy. Not quite a full five out of five stars, but definitely better than four.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a beautiful read. There were so many big questions asked, and answered, and so much left to the imagination. Science can often feel dry and dusty and like it really doesn't have much to do with every day life, but books like this prove that wrong. Here, in the not too distant future, 4 astronauts say goodbye to everything they know - their loved ones, their lives, history as they know it - to explore distant worlds, take scientific recordings of new life, and to try to answer some This was such a beautiful read. There were so many big questions asked, and answered, and so much left to the imagination. Science can often feel dry and dusty and like it really doesn't have much to do with every day life, but books like this prove that wrong. Here, in the not too distant future, 4 astronauts say goodbye to everything they know - their loved ones, their lives, history as they know it - to explore distant worlds, take scientific recordings of new life, and to try to answer some of the big questions about where life on earth came from, and why we are the way we are. It's glorious, never feels preachy, and is written with such skill. I was enamored. I could totally see this as a mini-series, although I'd imagine Hollywood would change the ending. I do wish we could have found out for sure what happened, and what was happening on Earth. My favourite parts were the strong relationships between the four crewmates, the utter joy they felt in exploring places where no human had ever gone before, and the thrill they got in just being with each other while they discovered things few human beings could possibly dream of. I'd love more books like this, please.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    Yet another beautiful, moving and utterly compelling piece of work from the incredible Becky Chambers.She moves away from the world she created in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and explores the delicate dynamics between a group of scientists sent into deep space to observe and record biodiversity on other planets. Their journey is narrated by Ariadne, the flight engineer, in the form of a letter that reads like diary entries that she wants the people of Earth to read, the devastating reason Yet another beautiful, moving and utterly compelling piece of work from the incredible Becky Chambers.She moves away from the world she created in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and explores the delicate dynamics between a group of scientists sent into deep space to observe and record biodiversity on other planets. Their journey is narrated by Ariadne, the flight engineer, in the form of a letter that reads like diary entries that she wants the people of Earth to read, the devastating reasons for which become abundantly apparent at the novella's close.To say much more would ruin the joy and sadness of taking this journey with Ariadne, however, as the team spend decades in a stasis known as torpor and as time moves forward, as their bodies change to suit the needs of different atmospheres and the planets provide them with a multitude of exciting and sometimes dangerous specimens to study, their home, Earth, is not standing still and is facing it's own changes too...Fans of Becky Chambers will devour this, newcomers will wonder why they waited so long to read her. Speculative science fiction at the top of it's game, I loved it, and it turns out she can pack just as much of an emotional punch to the gut in a much lower page count!
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    How I love Becky Chambers' science fiction! This stand alone novella takes us to a distant star system where four very normal, very human crew members explore four worlds in which alien life may exist. This is also a philosophical tale about the role of humanity in the universe, kits insignificance, its danger to the world around it, its need of society and purpose. As with most good novellas, I wish it were longer and the ending a little more developed. A review to follow shortly on For Winter How I love Becky Chambers' science fiction! This stand alone novella takes us to a distant star system where four very normal, very human crew members explore four worlds in which alien life may exist. This is also a philosophical tale about the role of humanity in the universe, kits insignificance, its danger to the world around it, its need of society and purpose. As with most good novellas, I wish it were longer and the ending a little more developed. A review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.
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  • Vicky
    January 1, 1970
    A quick read but a thought-provoking one. In the future, humans have mastered a way send themselves on long space missions, adapting to their environment on each planet they visit. Ariadne documents her experiences, along with that of her three fellow astronauts, and what it means to be so far from home. I love the authors writing; she captures her characters so well they just jump off the page. The ending was everything I hoped and left me thinking long after I'd finished the book.Thanks to Net A quick read but a thought-provoking one. In the future, humans have mastered a way send themselves on long space missions, adapting to their environment on each planet they visit. Ariadne documents her experiences, along with that of her three fellow astronauts, and what it means to be so far from home. I love the authors writing; she captures her characters so well they just jump off the page. The ending was everything I hoped and left me thinking long after I'd finished the book.Thanks to Netgalley for an advance copy of the book.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this little book, but it is very different from the Wayfarers series. It’s not delightful or heartwarming, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just be aware, if that’s what you’re looking for. Ok maybe my heart is slightly warmed. But I don’t feel like I just emerged from the best hug I’ve had in a while. Which, like I said, is fine!
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  • Jimi (Jimi Can Read)
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars for me. I didn't get on with the semi-conversational style for the first 30 pages or so, then got more into it. Definitely an intriguing and thought-provoking novella with a couple of compelling parts, but didn't quite do it for me overall. Highly recommended for science nerds tho.
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  • Ruth Brookes
    January 1, 1970
    Quietly nuanced & deceptively simple, To Be Taught, If Fortunate is both a beautifully compact, humane & moving piece of speculative-fiction, and a intelligent treatise on the ethics of exploration, the joy of scientific discovery & our collective responsibility to tread lightly as we venture forth. Wonderful stuff.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Preordered Signed Edition from Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/to-b...
  • Liam
    January 1, 1970
    Check out my fantasy and science fiction review blog, aperturereads.wordpress.com for more content! :)176 pages | Hodder & Stoughton | Science Fiction, Space Opera The digest: Chambers has once again knocked it out of the park. To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a highly political exploration of the human condition, following a four-person astronaut crew on their mission to conduct scientific research on faraway planets in the 22nd Century. In just over 130 pages the author forces us to address o Check out my fantasy and science fiction review blog, aperturereads.wordpress.com for more content! :)176 pages | Hodder & Stoughton | Science Fiction, Space Opera The digest: Chambers has once again knocked it out of the park. To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a highly political exploration of the human condition, following a four-person astronaut crew on their mission to conduct scientific research on faraway planets in the 22nd Century. In just over 130 pages the author forces us to address our own views on grief, sexuality, justice, and the pursuit of knowledge. The writing is of Chambers' usual excellent quality, and her story is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Highly recommended! I went into To Be Taught, If Fortunate entirely blind. I think that this is the best way of going about reading the novella, but for those who like to know what they're getting themselves into, the Goodreads summary is thus:"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 sub-zero 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 explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening."  It's obvious that I really enjoyed this novella, so I think I'll stick to my usual practice and start with the 'negatives' (few and insignificant though they are) so the positives can flow uninterrupted shortly: There isn't much of a plot or action here. Instead, the novella focuses on bigger questions about what it means to be a human, and to what extent do we have the right to exist on Earth, let alone to expand into other areas of space. All of this is done in the frame of character and world exploration; there are no space wars or other events of that ilk here. Chambers is fully capable of writing action scenes, but you should definitely not expect any here. I have previously praised Chambers' novels for being so focused on themes and characters, and I will do the same here in just a moment. No points deducted. It's short. Of course, as a novella To Be Taught, If Fortunate was never going to be hundreds of pages long but having finished it all I could think about is how I wanted more of it. However, one should never fault an author for leaving the reader wanting more provided the episode is complete, as it is here. No points deducted. What did irk me a little bit here is the fact that although my edition of the book is technically 176 pages long, the story itself is only around 135 pages. The rest is interviews and a sampler for the long way to a small, angry planet. These add-ons will probably interest a fair few readers, but it's something to be aware of. I'm conflicted on this one, as it dead mean that I reached the conclusion of the story much sooner (about 40 pages sooner) than I had expected.   The (very) good: To Be Taught, If Fortunate is quite unlike all other stories that I have read in its framing; it is effectively a mission report - a diary of sorts - from Ariadne, one of the four astronauts. During some sections, the book takes on more of a direct address approach, the narrator asking the reader to consider this or that, explaining why some scientific phenomena are massively important in a simple way so that the narrator's addressee (at once the reader and an unnamed, anonymous character or perhaps the narrator's recording device) could better understand what its significance is. Reading this novella, then, readers should expect a mixture being addressed directly and taking on a typical first-person role in the storyworld, watching as characters do this or that. We are, after all, reading a diary of sorts. Chambers' writing is phenomenal. With her trademark combination of accessible and poetic language, the author has created a story which compels the reader to finish the story by its prose alone. I wanted to continue reading to enjoy the process itself, not just to consume the story. Fantastic scientific ideas, ship updates, conversations - everything - is presented with such clarity that one cannot help but feel the author's own passion throughout. Indeed, this sort of clarity projects too the narrator's sense of enthusiasm in almost every line; she wants us to understand what is going on for the sake of sharing knowledge. I just can't get over how enthralling this novella actually is. Imagine having a conversation with someone about something they reallllllllllllly love, that's the level of enthusiasm with which the reader is addressed. I don't think I've ever felt so immersed in the characters' realities in any other novella. That's quite a longwinded way of basically saying that the character development here was much better than I had expected. Having enjoyed Chambers' Wayfarers trilogy, I was a little worried that the characters of a shorter book might suffer due to the format, but the fear was misplaced. Of course, in 135 pages readers do not have too much time to learn characters' histories or aspirations in detail. However, each character has their own unique traits, speech patterns, and tendencies, with the author giving enough tidbits of information throughout the whole novel to make the reader think about the four of them in greater detail than the book provides us with. By the novella's conclusion, I had already developed my own head-canon of how each of them would have responded to their education, their final days before takeoff, and what their hobbies may have been in the past. Very good stuff in this department. It is also worth mentioning that the cast is a diverse one. Not quite on the same levels of the Wayfarers books (the main crew are all human), but there is good representation nonetheless. We also see how the characters age during their mission (for some trips they are put into a stasis state, which slows their ageing dramatically but does not freeze it entirely), as well as how they react to their changing biology. The somaforming (discussed in the blurb above) sees the crew's bodies becoming stronger, or less prone to radiation poisoning and so on. Along with these physical changes, it is worth noting that the characters also mature during their research trip. Ariadne verbalizes a few times how her comrades seem to be behaving more responsibly, or have begun to question their motivations and so forth. I found this to be quite interesting, as rarely do characters really look around at each other and think such things (at least in the book that I read). This allows the reader to examine more critically On top of the development of individual characters, Chambers also explores their relationships in some detail. We see the cast's conversations, how they value each other's opinions, or how they physically come into contact with each other. In 135 pages, this one again was excellent. There is one scene in particular perhaps 2/3 of the way through the novel which really demonstrates the importance of these characters' relationships, and I appreciated Chambers' ability to turn everything on its head (at least for a little while). To discuss only the characters, however, would be a mistake. The novella is about space travel and scientific research; with the crew of four sent out to faraway planets to search for life beyond our own galaxy. We are told on the second page that they explore four different locations surrounding a shared star, and suffice it to say that these are all magnificently detailed, described with such vividity that one can truly imagine how they look. The crew's finding, less so (but that's the point!). Without spoiling anything, I will just say that readers are able to imagine the crew's exact response to each individual locale, getting caught up in each member's own excited state now and again. I can imagine what each place looked, smelled, heard, and felt like. Again, to do this in just 135 pages is amazing. These descriptions form a significant part of the novella's worldbuilding, but it is important to remember that the crew are from Earth, a fact which is never too far from their minds. We are told early on that our home planet faces (in effect) more extreme versions of our modern-day issues; overpopulation, war, famine, disease. This is by no means a unique setting, but when paired with the intensity of the narrator's own questions (which she asks of both herself and the reader), proves to be one of the more engaging renditions that I have read. How far exactly are we willing to go in the pursuit of knowledge? At what point do we turn around and say, 'No, that's quite enough for now'? Why is it that humanity cannot put aside its differences and work together for the greater good? There are more questions raised throughout the book but I will leave them for you to read and discuss. While such questions can be asked by we the readers of reality, the characters of To Be Taught, If Fortunate equally ask them of their own world, with their opinions appearing to change the longer the journey takes. That's enough about that from me for now - no spoilers! The book is political, there are no two ways about it. The space journey was funded and organised to be a politically neutral exercise, funded by honest donations with no profit-or-influence-based motivation. In some ways, this novella presents both the unimaginable purest elements of humanity against the backdrop of an all too real broken humanity. It's excellent. I don't want to spoil the ending at all, but I will say that the novella is a perfect example of ring composition. The first few pages of the story explicitly say that you could skip to the end and have the same questions to respond to, but the magic of the novella is the journey between the start of their mission and the end of the book. Part of me wishes that I could come to the story entirely fresh and do just that, skip from page 2 to page 132 and compare my feelings, but alas to do so is impossible. I recommend that you read this from front to back, with no skipping, to properly enjoy the story.   Conclusion: 4.5/5. It is clear that I enjoyed this novella. I recommend it to pre-existing fans of Science Fiction or Space Opera genres, but also to those after a character-centric story. You don't have to have any scientific knowledge at all to appreciate To Be Taught, If Fortunate, just a vague interest in futurology and how humankind may to a societal breakdown in the future. One of Chambers' novels made it onto my Favourite Books of 2018 list last year! I'm so excited to see what else the author produces in the coming years.Reviews for Chambers' other books: the long way to a small, angry planet a closed and common orbit record of a spaceborn few
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  • Dennis Cooper
    January 1, 1970
    Realistic and Exciting.Don't read this if you're expecting space battles and monsters. However do read it if you want to read about an realistic but exciting possibilities. This book isn't about conflict but it's about real science and real possibilities. To say more will give too much away. Maybe we'll get a full length novel at a latter date. I can see it being on next year's Hugos.
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  • Janet Brown
    January 1, 1970
    Once again, Becky Chambers hits it out of the park with this stunning novella. Those familiar with her Wayfarers novels will find To Be Taught, If Fortunate shares much in common with that trilogy; namely, using space exploration as a way to explore the nature of humanity and the meaning of life, but with a lightness of touch which belies such lofty goals. Highly recommended.
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  • Lady Brainsample
    January 1, 1970
    Pre-ordered on Amazon! September can't come soon enough.
  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    Listened July 2019. Audio Book and book released 8th August 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton.At the turn of the 22nd Century, there was a scientific breakthrough that made long-distance space travel a realistic possibility for the first time.The main obstacle to human spaceflight had always been that it was almost impossible to design a ship that could protect its human occupants from the hostile environment of space, for the length of time it would take to get to planets that were many light years Listened July 2019. Audio Book and book released 8th August 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton.At the turn of the 22nd Century, there was a scientific breakthrough that made long-distance space travel a realistic possibility for the first time.The main obstacle to human spaceflight had always been that it was almost impossible to design a ship that could protect its human occupants from the hostile environment of space, for the length of time it would take to get to planets that were many light years from our own.In the end, the breakthrough came by coming at the problem from a completely different angle. It was discovered that human bodies themselves could not only be adapted to counteract these effects, but they could also be endowed with different abilities to allow astronauts to be ideally suited to the environments they may find on other planets. This process was called somaforming.Humans were, at last able to explore the heavens and search for the evidence of life on other planets, rather than just speculating from afar!Ariadne and her three fellow astronauts are on a research mission to explore four exoplanets fifteen light-years from Earth. It has taken them 28 years to reach their first destination, and while they have slept, the somaforming process has done its work, keeping them safe and also developing special attributes for their mission. Between each new planet, the astronauts will be transformed while they sleep, so they will wake up in the form best adapted to the conditions they will find on the surface of their new destination.As the mission progresses, Ariadne records their experiences and details of the different life-forms they encounter. All their recorded data is sent off to Earth, even though it will take many years to reach there. This is a mission that will take many years and by the time they have completed it, the Earth will be a very different place to the one they have left behind.Indeed, the World they have left is changing more than they thought possible. Does anyone at home still remember they are out here? Is anyone still listening?*********************************************************************************This is the first time I have been introduced to the work of Becky Chambers and I am very impressed.There is a lot going on in this novella, despite the fact that it is only 160 pages long (4hrs 47 mins in audio book format, narrated very convincingly by Patricia Rodriguez), and it leaves you with many things to ponder when you have finished - plus a listening experience that has you with your heart in your mouth most of the time! You will find yourself alongside the astronauts and experiencing everything they see and feel - right from the moment they wake-up at each new planet.Right from the start, you are aware that these characters are "ordinary people", despite having the most extraordinary job. Their mission has taken them a long way from home, both in time and distance, and there are many things they miss from Earth - not least the families they will not see again.The overwhelming thing that struck me about this story is the dedication of the astronauts to their mission of discovery. They are fully aware that they are only in Space by the grace of all the people who have contributed to the space programme - since this is now funded by public donation, rather than government backing. This inspires them to do a good job for the benefit of all humanity. They are very aware that they are here to discover, without harming the environments they find themselves in and do their best to follow this protocol at all times - although there are certainly some hiccups along the way.It is clear from this book that the idea that being in space for a prolonged period is likely to affect the mental state of the astronauts, as well as their physical condition. Although lots of thought seems to have been put into protecting them from and adapting them to the rigours of space travel, their psychological well-being has not been considered as thoroughly. Yes, they have the comfort of routine and protocol to follow, but look what happens when things do not go to plan? It is admirable however, that whatever their adventures throw at them, the astronauts are able to fall back on the very idea that humanity knows best about the reason they are actually on this mission in the first place and they are ultimately able to rely on each other to pull through. Don't get me wrong, they are not on this mission simply out of sense of duty, as they want to be here on the cutting edge of space discovery and are enthusiastic about their work - but they never lose sight of why they are there.I love space travel stories and am fascinated by them. The idea that other lifeforms may exist somewhere out there is a compelling one, but I have no wish to leave the safety of our little blue planet myself - the thought of being isolated from everything I know and love, and possibly being unable to get back home, terrifies me. Therefore, I found the very nature of this story incredibly chilling, but it is intensely thrilling at the same time.Also being a fan of an obscure book title, I was intrigued by the fact that this one is called To Be Taught, If Fortunate. What does this actually mean? Well, dear readers, it is part of a quote which was recorded by Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General of the United Nations 1972-1981, the full text of which was on the Golden Records placed aboard the Voyager probes from 1972. The full text is below, and it serves to explain the meaning behind this novella. It is very thought provoking.As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organization of the 147 member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth. I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate. We know full well that our planet and all its inhabitants are but a small part of the immense universe that surrounds us and it is with humility and hope that we take this step.This book offers the very best of science fiction writing: the story is absorbing, there is plenty of imagination, and there is an abundance of scientific detail, but it also has the necessary elements to make this a thought provoking piece of work. Good science fiction should make you ask the question "What If?" and this novella does that in spades.
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  • Karen Martin
    January 1, 1970
    I've read the other books she's written and am looking forward to this one. Good stories so far!
  • David Harris
    January 1, 1970
    I'm grateful to the publisher for a copy of the To be Taught, If Fortunate audiobook via titleShare, (a new service which pitches itself as a kind of audio NetGalley. I've only, so far, experienced this book via the service but the listening experience was good and the service intuitive).To Be Taught... is short (literally, a novella) and suited to the audio format where I find too much length can be off-putting. The recording is also excellent, Patricia Rodriguez providing a nuanced, well paced I'm grateful to the publisher for a copy of the To be Taught, If Fortunate audiobook via titleShare, (a new service which pitches itself as a kind of audio NetGalley. I've only, so far, experienced this book via the service but the listening experience was good and the service intuitive).To Be Taught... is short (literally, a novella) and suited to the audio format where I find too much length can be off-putting. The recording is also excellent, Patricia Rodriguez providing a nuanced, well paced and expressive reading which suits this story very well.As a story, the book came over as a punchy, clean version of a classic SF format: the voyage of discovery (in the spirit of "To Boldy Go...") Astronaut Ariadne O'Neill and her handful of crewmates aboard the Lucky 6 have been launched on a lightyears and decades long voyage to investigate nearby, potentially life-bearing planets (remember space is HUGE, people!) Because of the distances and times involved, much of the journey is spent in 'torpor' - suspended animation during which temporary genetic manipulations ('somaforming') are applied to fit the crew for the environment of the target planet - be that high gravity, lack of light or high radiation. We slowly understand that the recording we are hearing is Ariadne's message back earth some way into the voyage, making the format particularly apposite. Ariadne's message explains the background and nature of the voyage - in the 22nd century, with space exploration long moribund, it has been revived by mass crowdfunding which effectively sponsors a space agency. We hear about Ariadne's early life, her emotional parting from her family - torpor and time dilation will mean that on return they will be dead or very old - and her hopes and fears for the expedition.The story then proceeds through visits to a number of every different planets. Chambers' handling of this material is a joy. We get, I think, some of the sheer unvarnished delight in the wonder of the universe, in the possibilities of scientific exploration and understanding as the crew observe different forms of life and collect all the data they can. This isn't a book of space empires or conflict, it's an older and even dare I say it, purer form of science fiction than that.Which isn't to say that all goes well. The planets visited are not equally welcoming, with incidents that challenge the astronauts' ideals of 'do no harm' and even place them in some jeopardy (as well as testing how long a group of people can survive in a large tin can). Through all this, Chambers' tone is calm, reflective and philosophical, not just narrating events but - though Ariadne - reflecting on them as well and relating them with a real passion for science and sense of idealism. If you didn't know what you were listening to - if you missed the opening, say - you could easily believe this was the memoir of a real scientist. The story takes the time to explain things - tidal locking, chirality - which not all readers/ listeners may understand but above all to show why those ideas are important.And, having educated us to the world, the universe, of Ariadne and her crew, and shown why what they are doing matters, Chambers calmly leads the crew - and us - to a moment of choice. A moment when driving through rural Oxfordshire, I found myself shouting 'Yes!' in answer to a certain question. It's a mark of this book's construction and impact that this wasn't, primarily, a matter of what I wanted in the story but an emotional reaction to the case Ariadne was making, to the values portrayed here and the context of her - and her crewmates' - dilemma. (Sorry to be obscure about that but I don't want to be too spoiler.To sum up, an excellent story with lots of wonder. A SF classic in the making, I think.
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