To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Ariadne and her crew of four travel four of the planets (well, one moon and three planets), orbiting Zhenyi. All is well until they suddenly receive silence from Earth.
While the idea of a long-term space exploration team losing track of Earth due to ~reasons~ isn’t something that’s often done, I did enjoy the hell out of the concept of exploration vice colonization.
The Merian crew had no desire to colonize—and that wasn’t their mission. They were after the pursuit of knowledge and nothing more, and had this amazing desire to change nothing at all and to minimize their impact upon the lands they visited.
What a concept.
Do no harm in space travel.
I loved it.
I also liked the dynamics of Ariadne and the rest of the crew, with Elena and Jack and especially Chikondi, and how they slotted together for the decades’ long travels through the galaxy and this new solar system, and how they were focused and thrilled by the new things they saw.
The basis of the rest of the book beyond do no harm is the transformation of oneself to fit one’s environment, instead of forcing the environment to fit you. At each world the human travelers changed going in and coming out, and learned new things about their bodies and the worlds and the universe.
I loved the queer rep too. One of the characters is a trans man. One is possibly a lesbian (or maybe bi). One I think was ace. And the main character is a pansexual polyam engaged in a healthy polyamorous relationship.
And finally, I really, really enjoyed that this mission was not a one-way ride, but that the astronauts had a return voyage planned. Because honestly, those one-way trips are such hell on the psychological state of their astronauts. Even if they are going to be returning by the time their sibling’s grandchildren are old and coming back to a world that might have forgotten them, they are still coming home.
It’s short, sweet and made me think about choices and autonomy, particularly when you are at the apex of an organization of thousands and thousands who sweated and bled and strived to get you to complete your mission.
The only thing I really wasn’t a fan of was the cover. While gorgeously plotted, did the model really have to be so butt-tastic? It kinda reminds me of the buttalicious covers of the 80s and 90s. I dunno. Maybe I’m just the only one who would rather not go into space or an alien planet with a massive wedgie.