To be Taught if Fortunate – Becky Chambers

Alyssa Winans

Cover artist

We exist where we begin, yet to remain there is death.

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.

The MERIAN is sent to explore four habitable planets fifteen light years from Earth. Its crew of four are sleeping while in transit, but when they arrive, they are woken up to survey the four planets.

This novella is concentrating on the ecologically survey the crew of the MERIAN is conducting. But at the same time it is also keeping in mind that Earth may change in the decades the expedition takes from the point of view of Earth – and the fact that Earth may not really be interested in the expedition anymore, because they may have other problems. 

Some readers may think that this sounds a bit dry, but as usual BECKY CHAMBERS’ story makes for an interesting read. Science, joy of new discoveries and living your dreams are what this book is about. There are no murders, violence and fatal accidents that many other authors might have chosen as essential for an interesting story.

You come away from this book knowing that you have been told a sincere and serious story of a possible future of human space exploration. And hopefully the feeling that it is important to keep exploring space if humanity wants to keep evolving.


The book ends with a quote:


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 all 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.

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