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review 2020-08-11 06:17
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
To Be Taught If Fortunate - Becky Chambers

TITLE: To Be Taught, If Fortunate

 

AUTHOR: Becky Chambers

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DESCRIPTION:

"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.
"

 

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REVIEW:

 

Interesting concept, boring execution.  The idea of temporarily altering your genetics to fit into an off-planet environment was interesting, but the writing was just tedious.  There were too many info dumps about biological concepts.  Too much "telling" and not enough "showing".  The main narrator has absolutely no personality, and the other characters are even "flatter".  For a space exploration novella this one was pretty bland.  Nothing "exciting" happened, even though the potential was there.  No personal development, no inter-personal development or crew dynamics either.  Everyone was just so... agreeable... and ... nice.    Even the potentially exciting parts came across as bland.  I got excited there for one moment with the giant slug-things... but NOTHING HAPPENED!  The ending was an interesting twist, but I found it highly unsatisfying and not at all plausible.  The one thing going for this novella is that it is short!

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review 2020-05-25 12:27
Wondrous worlds and some big questions.
To Be Taught If Fortunate - Becky Chambers

This is my first contact with Becky Chambers’s work, and I can’t comment on how it compares with the rest, but I read a review of this novella that intrigued me greatly, and I’m pleased I decided to purchase it and read it. She is a favourite among science-fiction fans, and I can see why.

The description gives a good idea of what the story is about. Ariadne, one of the four members of Lawki 6, a mission part of a programme to explore life outside Earth, with each mission focusing on certain planets that are believed to be able to hold (or develop) some form of life. She is a flight engineer, and each one of the other members of the crew (Elena, Jack, and Chikondi) has their own specialization and their own characteristics. One is a stickler for detail, another one hates early mornings, one is forever listening to music, another one only things about rocks, or plants… They are all young and have spent most of their lives either training or on missions, so although there isn’t much personal information (but there is some) forthcoming, that is not surprising. As the story is narrated in the first person by Ariadne, we hear more from her, but there is enough detail provided to get a sense of how wondrous (but also at time claustrophobic and horrendous) life can be for all of them. And although each one has a different way of coping, they are all tested and survive because they are a team.

I am not a big science-fiction reader and don’t have the knowledge to discuss the ins-and-outs of the science behind the novella, although there is a great deal of research in evidence, which allows readers to understand how things work without overwhelming us with complex explanations. The way the information is delivered reminded me of The Martian, minus the peculiar sense of humour of that novel’s protagonist, and here Ariadne is self-conscious of the fact that what she is explaining might be too much or too little depending on the audience and acknowledges it in her narration. I enjoyed the snippets of science weaved into the story, which I found fascinating, and became even more interested when I read about the author’s sources of information in her acknowledgments. I am not sure hard-core science fiction fans will find this novella up to their standards, but I loved the science part of it as much, if not more, as the fiction. Apart from the science part of the book, the novella also asks some pretty big questions, I’d dare call philosophical, about the nature of knowledge, and what is justified and what is not. Is knowledge for its own sake sufficient? Should everything have a practical application? These are questions humanity has been asking from the beginning of time, and I am not sure we’ll ever get an answer that satisfies everybody.

The writing style combines beautifully descriptive passages (the crew comes across some wonderful landscapes and creatures, and some horrible ones as well), and others where background information is imparted, telling more than showing, although this is fully justified by the premise of the novella, which is a combination of memoir, epistle, and report. There are moments of action, and some when readers are likely to think they know where things are going, but people expecting a standard adventure are bound to be disappointed. This is not a page-turner in the usual sense, and there are many moments of contemplation, wonder, but also of frustration and routine.

The book’s ending is open as it closes with a question, and each reader is free to imagine what comes next. I know what I’d like to happen, but worry that it is unlikely within the premise of the novella. The story proper ends around the 90% mark, as after the acknowledgements there is a sample of another one of the author’s novels, in case readers wonder about its actual length.

I recommend this novella to anybody who enjoys the science bit in science-fiction, and to anybody who likes to imagine and wonder how other worlds might be.  It might disappoint those looking for action and adventure, but if you like to let your imagination fly, think, and ask yourself big questions; this novella might be for you. I am sure this won’t be the last of Chamber’s books I read.

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review 2020-05-02 02:34
On The Night Border by James Chambers
On The Night Border - James Chambers
On The Night Border is a collection of dark stories that has a little something for everyone fond of horror fiction. Oftentimes a collection like this can feel repetitive and fatigue me so much that I need a break from it but that didn’t happen here. I never knew quite what I was getting into with each story and that’s the best feeling!

I’m not going to summarize every story because we are currently in an apocalypse and who has the time to read all that when you could be reading the book?! Also? Still lazy over here.

There were no badly written stories here nor were there any duds. There was only one story, the last one actually, that didn’t thrill me because it was about infectious disease and quarantine camps and death and this is all something I’m trying my best to avoid reading about right now. Totally not the story’s fault though.
 
My favorite stories are these:

Marco Polo: This one was pure grisly fun and I loved it. It reminded me of that old show Tales from the Darkside. Anyone but me remember that show with its wonderfully ghastly tagline: ‘there is, unseen by most, an Underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit, a Dark side. The Dark Side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us.’? Mwahaha. This story and many of the stories in this book would fit right in on that show. If someone rich and famous is reading my dumb reviews PLEASE REBOOT TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE. This story, in particular, is dark and twisty and a little manic. The perfect type of story to escape into.

Sum’bitch and the Arakadile This story is a tale of monsters and monstrous mothers and it made me sad for a few reasons I will not spoil. It’s short and to the point and might just poke you in the heart if you have one.

Mnemonicide: My notes say only YIKES! Haha, so I’m going on memory here. This one is about the purging of memories. We’ve all likely said and/or done things, maybe seen a few things, or met some people that we’d like removed from our brains. One dude decides to go for it in the most selfish way possible. This one BOTHERED me so much! You must read it and get bothered too!

What’s in the Bag, Dad? The setting is a traveling circus and ever since falling in absolute love with Katherine Dunn’s GEEK LOVE, I have a huge soft spot for those. There’s magic and pain and again some sadness here. It also kept me guessing which kept me reading because I am nosy and had to know what the hell was in the bag!

The Driver, Under A Cheshire Moon: Well, this sucker packs a punch. It’s dark but it is the best kind of dark. It lulls you into thinking one thing and then it sideswipes you with the truth of the situation. I ♥ it.

Living Dead: is a lighter-hearted story about the lovelorn and the living dead. This is my kind of story. And if you like this one you should also read Terry Maggert’s COOL TO THE TOUCH as a nice little companion piece. You will thank me later, haha.

I’ll stop here before I end up carrying on about all of the stories. Do yourself a favor and read this one if you need some fiction that’ll transport you to another world for a little bit. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
 
 
 

 

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review 2020-03-23 03:55
Comforting Space Opera
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

That was such a cute comforting read.

 

At first, I was a bit "meh", but it grew on me as I read. There is nothing groundbreaking or uniquely though provoking here, but more of a hodgepodge-crew-as-family gone on a long job, told in chapters of a more or less episodic nature. It's a bit like watching a half-season series in book form.

 

I liked that it was kinda corny, that there were a lot of different types of relationships and love forms, and that on the whole, it was positive and hopeful. A bit naive, a bit anvilicious, but exactly the cheery soup that you need sometimes.

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review 2020-02-08 01:51
Hill Women
Hill Women - Cassie Chambers

Just outside Owsley County, you’ll discover this narrow, gravel road that’ll lead you straight down into a holler, that’s surrounded by trees. That’s Cow Creek. It’s almost hidden, this small community in Kentucky.  This is why Cassie Chambers wanted to get the word out about the women in this area before they are forgotten and also, to make this area more visible to the public.  This area was home to Cassie before she headed off to college to become a lawyer.  I really enjoyed this book as Cassie told us about her family, herself, and this small community.  

 

Cassie decided to practice law in rural Kentucky to make a difference.  Wanting to represent women who couldn’t afford an attorney, Cassie headed to her hometown where, she knew that her services were needed.

 

Cassie’s story is personal as she serves her community.  She makes a lot of interesting points in this book but there was one that I remembered reading early, that stayed with me as I read the rest of the book.  This comment was about education in this area.  She mentioned that the men in this area, don’t see education as important for anyone.  Why?  Because for one, the men have all the opportunities that are available in the area so why would they need an education? Two: if a woman should get an education, that would change the opportunities that would be available to her (indicating a bad idea).  For everyone knows that the only job that a woman should have, is their own home.  How interesting is that?

 

With this way of thinking, the abuse, the seclusion, and the poverty, I felt deeply for these women and grateful that Cassie chose to come home to help them.

 

This is Cassie’s story, a tribute to the amazing women who raised her.  It was an interesting story and I enjoyed reading about Cassie’s life. 

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