The Captain’s Log – to be taught, if fortunate (Becky Chambers)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I absolutely fell in love with this author’s Wayfarer series and was so glad it won the Hugo for best series this year.  So I was super excited to read this novella even if it be set in another world.  I was not disappointed.

Becky Chamber’s website describes the novella like this:

” . . . set fourteen light-years from home.  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 subzero 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 journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life.”

The novella is told from the perspective of Adriane who is one of the four scientists onboard an exploratory mission to do research on four exoplanets in a system far, far away.  The goal is to do a scientific study and go back home despite knowing that Earth will not be the same one they left.  Each trip to another planet involves a sleep cycle to somaform in preparation.  The astronauts receive periodic updates from home that seem increasingly irrelevant as they deal with the trials and triumphs of discovery.  But of course dealing with Earth’s changes prove to be vital.

Unlike the Wayfarer series, this story does not deal with alien culture and technology even if alien lifeforms are present.  This story is about the human crew, their interpersonal relationships, and how they handle their time in space.  It has more of a hard sci-fi bent then her other works but it was both easy to follow and fascinating in concept.  I loved the science and psychology of this novella.  The novella is split into four parts, each covering a different exoplanet.  Even with the short length, Chambers continues to explore diversity, the human condition, and today’s society.

I have to admit that being on a plane at night watching the thunderstorms below and the moon shining brightly above enriched the reading for me.  Everyone else around me was asleep in the darkened plane.  It is the closest to space I will ever be and it be magical.  I knew I was reading a story but it just felt so real and plausible.  I loved it.

There was also a very lovely special section discussing sci-fi facts and writing styles with a Q & A with the author and her mom.  Fun!  I loved this one and can’t wait to see what Becky Chambers comes up with next.  Arrr!

Goodreads has this to say about the novella:

In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.

Adriane is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.

Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Becky Chambers – Author

To buy the book go to:

to be taught, if fortunate – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Log Entries for this Author

the long way to a small, angry planet – book 1 (The Captain’s Log – Sci-Fi)

a closed and common orbit – book 2 (The Captain’s Log – Sci-Fi)

record of a spaceborn few – book 3 (The Captain’s Log – Sci-Fi)

the vela (On the Horizon – Sci-Fi eArc)

21 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – to be taught, if fortunate (Becky Chambers)

  1. Oh wow, reading this on a plane sounds like an amazing experience! I might have to book a holiday just to schedule a re-read…

    This is definitely more hard sci-fi than Chambers’ other books, but as someone who doesn’t usually gravitate towards hard sci-fi it was a great way for me to explore the genre without getting scared off – like you said, her work is always easy to follow and so accessible. 😀


  2. Oh wow, you’re experience with this (including where you read it) makes me so happy! I have intention to read anything by Chambers because I love her flair for different, but you have me more incline to move it up the list. The Q&A sounds particularly delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve recently finished listening to Record of a Spaceborn Few on audible – and for the first time, I’ve wondered whether I would have preferred actually reading it as I found the particular accent rather distracting. That didn’t detract from the quality and detail she puts into her worldbuilding, however. This sounds like a gem – and how wonderful you got to listen to it while flying:))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People are not liking this one because it is more hard sci-fi and seemingly less adventurous. It has scientists doing “boring” science routine. But of course me opinion of fascinating is the right one. I have to admit that I feel that Becky Chambers (and Martha Wells) are better off read instead of listening. I think its because I can take the time to think about ramifications of the story while reading. The audiobooks (and me hard hearing) mean that I be focusing too much on catching the story. But I am weird about what I like to listen to via audiobook. I can’t wait to read yer reviews of all of the Chambers books. I am so glad ye have begun the series.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, I entirely agree with you – I loved the rhythm of daily life. I’m a sucker for that kind of detailed portrayal, anyway. But I do think you’re right – that this one would have been better read than listened to. I shall certainly get hold of the next one as an ebook! Thank you for the useful advice, Cap:))

        Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I’ve read her 3 wayfarers books too! I loooove her. I think Closed and Common orbit might actually be my fave, but it’s a close call! But I love how she deals with AI and identity in that one.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed this! I missed the deep human drama of her Wayfarers novels, but to be fair she wasn’t given much time to develop all the characters and her relationships with this one, this being a much shorter novella. I did enjoy how “high concept” sci-fi it was though!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh, I really need to start the Wayfarers series! I’ve heard such great things about Becky’s work but haven’t read anything yet. Though maybe this novella would be a better place to try her work since it seems to be a standalone? Hmmm. Food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the Wayfarers series is amazing for the alien cultures and psychology. The novella is focused on human impact. Personally I would start with the Wayfarers series. I think that her writing gets better as she goes and that the juxtoposition of the series with the novella enhanced the reading. Though some people were disappointed by how different in feel the novella was to the series. So what do I know. Do what ye think is best. But certainly read her books!
      x The Captain


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