To Be Taught, If Fortunate

A Novella

hardcover, 160 pages

English language

Published Aug. 8, 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton.

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5 stars (4 reviews)

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 …

3 editions

It's been a journey!

5 stars

When i started reading this novella, I falsely assumed it was part of the Wayfarers cycle. It's not, but it's also not important.

The book recounts the journey of four astronauts from earth. It tells of their struggles and joys, their passions and woes. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story unfolds, the characters are painted and the way they are interacting with each other. And, without spoiling it, I really loved how the author decided to end the book.

I finished the book two days ago. I am still enchanted.

A human adventure in space, in four acts

4 stars

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago. Like all of Chambers's books, it feels as though nothing much is going on in them at any given moment, but in a good way. There are interpersonal relationships continuously developing and evolving, there's the discoveries about the planets that the explorers land on, and then there is the revelation about events back on Earth which the explorers, 17 light years away, can do nothing about.

For such a simple and shortish story, I found the revelation at the end to be suitably profound, as well as the way Chambers left unanswered, but in a satisfying way, some of the questions about what had happened back on Earth.

A deeply personal plea for space exploration funding

4 stars

Unlike the super-high-tech far future of her Wayfarers series, Chambers focuses on just the near-future of the human race. Seen from a team of exoplanet explorers surveying alien life, To Be Taught paints a future where governments fail in the mission to space but the human spirit leads ordinary people to crowdfund the mission instead. And when the interstellar mission outlasts human lifespans, government lifespans and even societal lifespans, Chambers leaves us with a deeply personal question, ask from both her perspective and that of the protagonist, chronologically ancient, barely human and too distant to ever return home: how much is space exploration worth?