Book Review

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught if Fortunate Becky Chambers

Genre | Science Fiction Novella
Page #s | 153
Publishing Date | September 2019

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.

Ariadne 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.

Carrying all the trademarks of her other beloved works, including brilliant writing, fantastic world-building and exceptional, diverse characters, Becky’s first audiobook outside of the Wayfarers series is sure to capture the imagination of listeners all over the world.


To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a love letter to science. In this sci-fi novella, Chambers steps away from alien societies and focuses on human astronauts traveling the galaxy to study, learn, and appreciate.

As is common in her books, this story is more about ideas and characters than plot. In fact, the dramatic events happening on Earth that lead to discontinued communications are quickly ignored by the astronauts as outside of their control and therefore not worth dwelling on. Instead, we travel with the small group of four to worlds diverse in life, from the subtle to the beautiful to the horrifying.

In contrast to a conquering mentality, our intrepid space scientists have the explicit goal of not influencing the worlds in which they live for years at a time. They are meticulous about this, and the few instances in which they fail to separate their space from the alien planet’s inhabitants are harrowing, both for the characters and for the readers. I loved seeing the joy that can be found in exploration simply for the sake of observation and appreciation rather than claiming or subjugating.

What Makes This Book Queer?

This is a subtly queer book, as three of the four astronauts are quietly polyamorous, one is trans, and one is asexual. The queerness is secondary to everything else that is going on and offers a representation of a future where queer relationships are so normalized as to be background information.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

Like most of Becky Chambers’ books, I think literally everyone would enjoy this! But if I have to be specific, this is for your friend who listens to science podcasts and loves learning for the sake of learning.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

2 comments on “To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

  1. What a great review- I loved this book.


  2. Pingback: My 5-Star LGBTQ+ Books for Pride – Roar Cat Reads

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