Tag: Becky Chambers

Review – A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Posted December 29, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky ChambersA Psalm for the Wild-Built, Becky Chambers

Received to review via Netgalley

I was surprised to find that A Psalm for the Wild-Built didn’t get under my skin the way every other book of Chambers’ has: I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the discussion of figuring out your purpose (and whether that’s important or not). I enjoyed the idea of Dex’s work as a tea monk, helping people relax and unburden themselves — and I totally sympathised with the fact that Dex learned a whole profession, got good at it, and then found themselves wanting to start over and learn anew. All the same, it didn’t quite get the emotional reaction from me that I expected.

The world Chambers builds here is interesting too: utopian, and yet not without people who are dissatisfied, people who don’t know what to do with themselves, the everyday hurts and troubles that are going to be inevitable amongst people. As ever, there’s something profoundly hopeful about this story.

The robots are perhaps the most interesting part, and I’ll look forward to reading more about Mosscap and its opinions about humanity, as it begins to journey and meet people and ask questions. The story feels complete and satisfying on its own, in a way, but I won’t argue with getting more of it!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Posted September 19, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

I’m not usually the sort of person who cries over books. There’s got to be something special about a book that makes me cry — something larger than life, almost. Whatever the trick is, Becky Chambers has got it down: I’ve cried over every book of hers that I’ve read so far, often multiple times, even on rereads.

There’s not a huge amount that happens in this book, in some ways — though I don’t quite understand it when people say nothing happens, because there are a few episodes which include the crew being in danger, and then one big incident at the end where the characters are in serious danger. There is a lot of slice-of-life (in space!) and character-study in the makeup of this book, and it’d be silly to pretend it’s not: part of the draw for the people who love it is the hopefulness of many parts of it, and the fact that the characters are pretty much all good people.

It’s pretty character-focused, but there’s a good helping of world-building as well, a sense of a galaxy outside the story. We barely get to meet some of the species in the Galactic Commons, but we get a sense that they’re out there, and sometimes scraps of what they’re like. We get a sense of some of the rules and customs, a little of the history, and some sense of where things might be going.

Overall, if you’re looking for hard SF and grittiness and characters who will do bad things for good reasons, or good things for bad reasons, then this ain’t it and it isn’t ever going to be it. This is about people who are trying to be good, who really do try their best, who become a family of sorts and travel through the universe building tunnels to allow other people to safely travel large distances in a short space of time. It’s warm and fuzzy in many ways, though it has some highly emotional and wrenching moments, and there’s a deep faith in the ability of people (not just humans, but in sapients in general) to be good to one another.

Rating: 5/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 20, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Hey folks! I’ve been spending the unskippable cutscenes of a particular dungeon in Final Fantasy XIV to catch up on my reviews, and I should soon start scheduling those. Right now, all my energies are focused toward my exam… but maybe I’ll be around here more soon, at this rate! In the meantime, though my arm is sore from my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, I can still wield a keyboard, so here’s the Wednesday update!

Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews, for a start. It’s a reread, but I’ve had a lot of joy from this series, I’d really like to read the more recent books someday, and it felt like ideal light reading while my entire body stresses out about my upcoming biostatistics exam. I’m also still reading Plain Bad Heroines, and I’m finding it super awkward-feeling right now with the apparently deliberate baiting of Merritt. I’m intrigued about where it’s going, but also apprehensive that it’s going to be annoying.

Non-fiction: Still on both The Invention of Murder (Judith Flanders) and Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (Lisa Randall). I’m enjoying the former, and probably planning on finishing that next; the latter is still doing Planet Formation 101, and there’s very little new to me, so I’m biding my time and finding it a bit slow.

What have you recently finished reading?

I just finished The Library of the Dead, by T.L. Huchu, and I wish I loved it more than I did. The narrative voice doesn’t work for me, and the cover puts me too much in mind of Ben Aaronovitch’s books not to (fairly or unfairly) compare it to those books. Not so much in terms of overall quality, where I don’t particularly feel Aaronovitch is one of the genre’s great craftspeople, but in terms of plots, themes and settings.

I also finished Murder’s a Swine, by Nap Lombard, which was pretty fun.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat will you be reading next?

I’m in the mood for lots of rereading, but as usual, I’m really not sure what I’ll actually pick up. Maybe The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Becky Chambers) again(!) because playing Mass Effect is kinda giving me that urge. Or even Ancillary Justice (again again).

What are you currently reading? And how are you all?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Quotes

Posted September 29, 2020 by Nicky in General / 14 Comments

This week’s theme via That Artsy Reader Girl is “favourite book quotes” — which I’m pretty sure I’ve done before. So instead, I’ll put a tiny spin on it and pick out my favourite quotes from the last ten books I’ve read. I just skipped ones which aren’t very quotable… or which didn’t have Goodreads quotes yet, if I couldn’t immediately think of something.

Cover of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Cover of Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman Cover of Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

  1. Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. “Perhaps that is what it is like being with other people. Perhaps even people you like and admire immensely can make you see the world in ways you would rather not.”
  2. Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado-Perez. “It’s not always easy to convince someone a need exists, if they don’t have that need themselves.”
  3. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers. “Books… are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with ’em, then we grow out of ’em and leave ’em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.”
  4. Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Brenman. “You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots.”
  5. Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart. “There was one thing that stood like stone among the music and moonfroth of the evening’s gaieties. It was stupid, it was terrifying, it was wonderful, but it had happened and I could do nothing about it. For better or worse, I was head over ears in love.”
  6. Driftwood, by Marie Brennan. “Paggarat was less doomed than they wagered, not because of how long it lasted but because of how it went out. Because of Aun and Esr, smiling at each other until the end of the world.”
  7. The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu. “Do you see how much power you have when you act without fear?”
  8. The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon. “I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”
  9. The Last Smile in Sunder City, by Luke Arnold. “I like books. They’re quiet, dignified and absolute. A man might falter but his words, once written, will hold.”
  10. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chamber. “We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.”

Cover of Drift Wood by Marie Brennan Cover of The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu Cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon Cover of The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I didn’t love all those books, but those quotes capture something that did work for me from each!

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Review – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Posted August 17, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 10 Comments

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

I know there are people for whom this book leaves them entirely cold — whether the whole story falls apart for them, or the setting, or they see massive problems with certain plot points… I tried to read it more critically this time, ready to see those things and understand where they’re coming from. It didn’t work; I fell in love all over again and devoured it whole in about five seconds flat. Well, not quite, but you get the idea.

It’s the found family thing that gets me every single time, I think: the way they’ll cover for each other and work to understand each other and accept each other no matter what. This is mostly a book about good people, perhaps implausibly so: with almost everything any of them do, you can believe that they’re doing it because they think it’s right, and that it’s the right thing to do. (There is a major exception for me which I’ll discuss in a moment.) I can understand people who aren’t hooked by that, who don’t find it believable or can’t even get invested because the conflict feels implausible to them… but it’s catnip to me, apparently.

I do hate the whole plotline with Ohan, I’m afraid. Even as my heartstrings are tugged by the results of it, I loathe that Corbin takes away Ohan’s self-determination, and chooses things for them that they don’t want. I hate that the reader is manipulated into being glad about that, and to think that Corbin essentially does the right thing. Nope nope nope nope nope. It’s the dark spot in this book for me: I understand why it’s there, and I can’t help but love the bit with Dr Chef at the end… but the decision made for Ohan is not something I’m actually comfortable with.

It doesn’t darken the rest of the book for me, and as ever I actually cried cathartically for almost the last 50 pages of the book… but it’s worth knowing about, particularly if you have a disability or mental illness where other people think they know better than you about your own body. It’s very discomforting, and it’s worth knowing before you go in if that’s something you might be sensitive about.

I just love almost all the characters so much; Sissix is so darn awesome, Ashby’s a darling, Kizzy’s like Firefly’s Kaylee on speed (almost literally)… It all comes together so well for me. Pitched perfectly to my id, I guess!

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 13, 2020 by Nicky in General / 3 Comments

Not joining the linkup this week… just too darn tired again. But I’d love to hear from anyone who drops by!

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat are you currently reading?

I’m rereading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet for a Habitica group read. I enjoy it a lot, the sense of family and love and compromise, and it’s proving a good read when (because we can’t catch a break) one of our bunnies is a bit off. Also, it’s hot, and I generally don’t want to do anything when I’m too warm, so having something familiar I can sink into is very appealing.

Cover of Burnout by Emily & Amelia NagoskiWhat have you recently finished reading?

Burnout, by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. It’s a self-help book and typical of the breed in many ways, including an overly chummy and simplified writing style that doesn’t tend to work for my brain. It did give me some ideas for stuff to do better for myself, even if it is deeply focused on assigned-female-at-birth people who identify as female and are treated as such. If you’re not fond of — or at least able to put up with — being addressed in “you go girl” terms constantly, it’s not going to be for you.

What will you be reading next?

Totally, totally unknown. I’ll probably try to return to and finish The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, though.

What are you reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 5, 2020 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of A Scream in Soho by John G. BrandonWhat are you currently reading?

Probably a bunch of stuff that I’ve accidentally put down when I didn’t mean to… but primarily, I’ve just started A Scream in Soho, by John G. Brandon. There’s so much period-typical racial stereotyping (largely about Italians, but Germans too), and the murdered person is… well, the way the story puts it is that it’s a man disguised as a woman. Which the plot will probably bear out, given they’re probably a spy. Still, it’s not exactly aged well in various ways.

Cover of Lock In by John ScalziWhat have you recently finished reading?

I devoured a reread of John Scalzi’s Lock In, and then followed it up with the sequel, Head On. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, and I didn’t really need the reread of the first book… but it was nice. I still need to sit down and do my review of Head On and think through it, but I tore through both books.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat will you be reading next?

Goodness knows! I want to reread The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet for a Habitica book club readalong, so there’s that… but I also just got my replacement ereader and I had a bunch of books part-read on Libby that I need to get into the queues for again. If they’re not currently reserved, maybe I’ll be able to grab them and restart on those.

But as usual, it could really be anything.

What are you currently reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted July 29, 2020 by Nicky in General / 10 Comments

Hey folks! I’m not linking this one up, because I know I don’t have the energy to answer many people… but I’d love to hear from regulars. Lisa’s sick, and there’s an outside chance it might be COVID… so it’s quarantine for us.

Cover of The Lost Boys by Gina PerryWhat are you currently reading?

My wife’s sick, so I’m pretty brain-dead. I’m supposed to be finishing up The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu before the end of the month, but I think the chances are slim. I’ve tried to pick up The Lost Boys, by Gina Parry, which is about the Robbers Cave experiment by Muzafer Sherif; I really want to be interested, but I don’t have enough brain.

Kassia St. Clair’s The Secret Lives of Colour is going down better, because it has very short chapters.

Cover of Return of the Earl by Sandra SchwabWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Return of the Earl, by Sandra Schwab, which was kind of cute but won’t prove memorable. I had to look up the eponymous Earl’s name again to write my review two days later, eek.

Before that it was Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which was less forgettable but which I haven’t quite managed to review yet.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat will you be reading next?

I really have no idea. I’m being gently urged to reread some favourites, whether that’s Dorothy L. Sayers or Becky Chambers or something else, in the hopes that whatever it is will better suit my brain at the moment through its familiarity. Probably a solid plan, but who knows if I’ll stick to it.

What are you reading?

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Review – To Be Taught, if Fortunate

Posted September 2, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky ChambersTo Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers

This novella is a stand-alone which explores many of the same themes as Chambers’ award-winning Wayfarers books: there’s a deeper focus on science, but there are also the same themes of family, friendship, what’s worth it in life. It follows the fortunes of a small crew who are surveying planets far, far from Earth, investigating all manner of things — including life. It’s an optimistic view of the universe in terms of biology: there’s some form of life everywhere the crew go. Throughout, it’s clear that what they’re doing is not necessary — this isn’t about terraforming, finding somewhere new for people to live, finding resources… it’s about discovery, the joy and wonder of it.

It’s not much of a story, really. There’s a fair bit of explanation about why the scientific things are significant, and there’s a dryness to the tone in a lot of places because of the format (a report back to Earth). There is a payoff, but it definitely wasn’t as emotional as the Wayfarers books, and I didn’t feel particularly close to the characters. In fact, I’ve mostly forgotten their names already, though I do remember some things about them and how they reacted to the events — I’m not saying this is a dead loss, at all.

It’s a good short read, with a theme I can get behind — the importance of discovery for discovery’s sake — but I hoped for more, I think is my conclusion.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Record of a Spaceborn Few

Posted August 13, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky ChambersRecord of a Spaceborn FewBecky Chambers

All the books in this series are rather cosy, and they’ve been getting less of a plot with each installment — the first book has a crew of characters with a definite short-term purpose in mind, the second book is a character study in many ways, and this… this is slices of life on board the Exodan feet, contemporaneous with the other books. There’s not much of a plot beyond the very basics: people want to live, people want to find their place. It’s got quite a large cast of characters, and it kind of goes a bit aimless and limp in the middle if you’re looking for a plot or even hoping for a definite character arc. It’s very slice-of-life-ish. Even when something dramatic happens, the point is not the drama, but the way the people involved heal afterwards and deal with it.

If you’re looking for a character study and an exploration of how this society might work, though, there is a lot to enjoy. I got a bit teary about the other books, but this one had me in tears within the first fifty pages. There’s something powerful about the Exodan fleet and what it stands for, and this book explores that. It’s interesting to follow these characters as they do their very particular jobs, with meaning and significance only for the Exodan fleet.

I think it’s still an enjoyable read, as long as you’re not going into it with the expectation that you’re going to have gun fights and interstellar politics. This isn’t The Expanse, and there’s very little of the do-or-die heroism. Instead, it’s about people getting on with life, and the small everyday ups and downs they have to deal with. I don’t think it’s as strong as the previous two books, even though it’s the epitome of the hope and family and connection that makes those books so good! It’s just a little too slow and contemplative, without the clear drive of either of the other two.

Rating: 3/5

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