So I’ve liked Becky Chambers’ books, and when I saw that she had out a new novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate, I jumped right on it… and was disappointed pretty hard.

This isn’t in her existing series, it’s a semi-near-future space exploration story, where Earth sends out early manned exploration missions to nearby exoplanets with apparently life-supporting atmospheres. Not as missions of colonization or anything, just as straight up “let’s see what’s out there” exploration.

And so the book follows one of these missions as it explores its targets, and that’s all fine and dandy; most of the book is pretty straightforward hard SF, with them discovering things and having little mini-adventures and what-not. My main criticism of it for most of its duration is that it’s kind of light on actual story, just more or less a kind of series of events rather than anything that adds up to an actual plot. Inoffensive and pleasant, if a bit aimless.

But then there’s the ending. I hate the ending, with a white-hot passion. I find it absurd and ridiculous and infuriating, just utterly mind-bendingly stupid. It doesn’t seem like how any human would ever plausibly act, nor does it resolve any kind of dramatic tension, it’s just this random bit of nonsense that happens to be at the end of the book. Complaining about it this much probably counts as a spoiler even without the details—if you go to read this story, you’ll spend the whole time wondering what’s going to be so bad at the end now—but maybe the good news is that you won’t think it’s as bad as I’m making it sound, and your lowered expectations will let you be pleasantly surprised instead. That’d be nice, I guess?

Not really recommended.


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