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.
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