Thursday, July 08, 2021

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers has a wonderful ability to write books that are larger than they appear, and which leave the reader feeling good about themselves and humanity at large. A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a short novel, about 160 pages. Nothing much happens in it, yet it sets out to tackle the question about the purpose of life.

Sibling Dex is a monk who one day realises that life in the city doesn’t satisfy them anymore, so they change their vocation and begin to tour the countryside with a bicycle drawn trailer, to offer tea and sympathy for those who need it. After a rocky start, they become great at it. Yet they’re still not satisfied.

On a whim, they head to the wilderness that humans aren’t supposed to enter. There they encounter Mosscap, a humanoid robot who has been sent to find out if humans need them. Robots have become self-aware about two centuries ago, when humans were facing an ecological disaster. A pact between robots and humans has kept the two apart ever since.

Now the world has healed and the robots maybe want to join humans again. But they’re not the original robots anymore. They’ve rebuilt themselves from the parts of the old robots, and in the process have gained an outlook on life that rests on its finite nature.

Dex and Mosscap become friends over philosophical and religious conversations, both learning from the other. I liked them both very much, though Mosscap with its infinite curiosity and old wisdom was maybe my favourite. The book ends with the two deciding to head back to civilisation together. Since this is the first book in Monk & Robot series, the rest of their adventures will happen later.

This was perhaps the most hopeful of Chambers’ books I’ve read. The world—a habitable moon—is lush and green and full of happy people in harmony with nature. There’s no talk about space travel, though the people must have come there somehow. All the technology is fairly lowkey, even Mosscap. Like in all Chambers’ books, being genderless is a valid way of life. I especially liked Sibling as an option for Brother and Sister of other monks. And I liked that there was no drama. The book left me feeling rested and comfortable. A wonderful respite.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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