Genre | Science Fiction Novella
Page #s | 160
Publishing Date | July 2021
Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new series gives us hope for the future.
It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?
A cozy novella about discontent and discovery, Psalm for the Wild-Built is comforting and inspiring. Set in a rich world that had me eager for further exploration in the (hopefully inevitable) sequels, I adored learning about the unexpected robot consciousness event and how the world reacted in the best possible way – by dividing the world in half and letting robots roam free in the wild.
Sibling Dex, a non-binary tea monk, travels the world as a barista/counselor on their bike-powered tiny house. If that sentence doesn’t make you want to read the book, then our brains work in very different ways. Despite living in supportive, meaningful environments, Dex can’t help but want more. This drive leads them into the wild, where they come across Mosscap, a robot whose curiosity has led them seek out a human, hoping to discover what it is that humans need. Together they journey, talk, and learn from each other. There’s not really a plot, and one isn’t necessary. It’s perfect exactly as it is.
There are a few things that I especially love about this novella. The first is the titular concept of “wild-built” – the original robots decided not to live forever but to remake themselves, combining pieces of themselves with other robots to create a new generation. However, the phrase also evokes the feeling that drives Dex – a restless need to wander and discover that the civilized world doesn’t understand or feel.
I also adored the naming convention for robots, the easy way gender and sexuality is portrayed, and the vision of a future in which the right ecological and social decisions were made. It’s a wholly lovely book, and I very much recommend it.
Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Perfect for anyone who wants a short and sweet science fiction story.
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