To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I think binge-reading the Monstress comic book series has seriously lowered my tolerance for earnest right now.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate. The earnestness fits the message, which is a meditation on scientific ethics in regard to space travel and exploration. The novella is as uplifting, diverse and thoughtful as the rest of Ms Chambers’ work, if less funny and more science-y. It follows the four crew members of the Merian, who’ve been somatically engineered to withstand extreme differences in atmosphere and gravity as they chart the living species on each of the four extrasolar planets they’ve targeted for research. It’s a very brainy, very detail-oriented look at space, time, evolution, ethics and life itself, as well as an optimistic paean to scientific research and the human spirit.

But it’s not fun. Or at least not the kind of fun I expected after reading Ms Chambers’ excellent The Long Road To A Small, Angry Planet. TBTiF is less an entertainment than a mission statement in the form of fiction, with the occasional textbook-y interlude. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the pulpier bits, as well as the cool survival concepts but the rest of it was too nerdy even for me. YMMV, of course.

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