Book Reviews

Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I should have learned by know that I would love anything Becky Chambers writes. Just know that this statement has never lead me astray. To Be Taught, If Fortunate is an emotional novella about the future of humanity, ambition, and family. Keep reading this book review to see me devolve into screaming.


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.


Becky Chambers has taught me that space is scary. I listened, and read, To Be Taught, If Fortunate in a day. I combined my copy, kindly given to me by Laura, and my audio-book copy from the library. It’s a novella full of space travel and exploration. But it reads like a letter home. My first thought while reading was that this has a very Becky Chambers feel. By that I mean that Chambers is able to infuse space discussion with conversations about humanity. With vulnerability, how confronting the stars means confronting our own fears.

It never felt rushed as Ariadne narrates her story of found family and the fears of mortality paired with the flush of ambition. Chambers takes us on an emotional journey of highs and lows. Of moments I knew something was going to go wrong and I had to read until I knew what it was. By the end of To Be Taught, If Fortunate the novella morphs into examining what it means to be human. What it means to be human in the context of the universe.

To be confronted with the stars and wondering what our place is. Do we continue traveling until our engines breath their last breath? To wonder what our exploration of the stars means to who we are. Where it will take us as a society, as a species, as people. It’s truly such a gem of a novella and I adored it. Find To Be Taught, If Fortunate on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Do you have a favorite novella writer?

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