Space exploration

To Be Taught, If Fortunate
by Becky Chambers

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“My name is Ariadne O’Neill, and I’m the flight engineer aboard the OCA spacecraft Merian. My crewmates are mission specialists Elena Quesada-Cruz, Jack Vo, and Chikondi Daka. We’re part of the Lawki program, a broad ecological survey of exoplanets – that is, planets that do not orbit our sun – known or suspected to harbour life. Our mission (Lawki 6) is focused on the four habitable worlds in orbit around the red dwarf star Zhenyi (BA-921): the icy moon Aecor, and the terrestrial planets Mirabilis, Opera, and Votum.“

And exploring those planets is made possible by somaforming, aka transforming the human body by adapting it to each new world during transit to that location. The transformations were not as extreme as I had hoped for, but probably have a higher degree of probability.

This is not space opera with massive conflict, it‘s more about a group of nerdy scientist exploring new planets. It‘s about love of exploration and about finding signs of life. And it‘s about how the four scientist cope with their experiences. All four of them are relatable and likable, although they do each represent a cliché and very specific personality trait.

The imagined worlds are diverse and were fun. The ending felt too abrupt and overly philosophical. I would have wished for the story to keep going a little further. Especially the contact with Earth could have done with more plot. It was set up to be an important part, but the conclusion left me wanting.

The story is pretty calm and introspective, but not slow or boring. I enjoyed and it‘s yet again another reminder that I really need to get through my Becky Chambers backlog.

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