Is There A Meaning To Life? // A Psalm For The Wild-Built

A Psalm For The Wild-Built Review.

Becky Chambers has done it again with A Psalm For the Wild-Built. This is a gorgeous, thoughtful soft sci-fi that uses robots to pick apart dilemmas humans have had for generations. If no matter how well your life is going you still feel like something is missing, maybe it’s time to go on a hike with a robot who wants to know ‘what do humans need?’.

A Pslam for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers book cover.

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?

Review

When robots gained self-awareness they decided they wanted to disappear into the wilderness, never to be seen again. When a simple tea monk decides they feel like something is missing from their life, they decide to take a break into the wilderness. Robots are nothing but an urban legend, so they never expected to meet one, especially one who asks the question ‘what do humans need?’ Well, they find out it’s hard enough to tell what one human needs.

I’ve been hoping for a human non-binary character from Becky Chambers for a while now, and this book delivers! I’ve always loved the author’s descriptions of genders in the Wayfarers series, but it was focused on aliens. I love examinations of non-humans being non-binary, but I wanted some human rep! I was so happy to hear both the human tea monk and the robot in this book identify as genderless!

For a novella that’s generally very introspective, I was surprised by how deep the worldbuilding felt. You don’t get every little piece of information, but Becky Chambers did a wonderful job of making this world come to life. I especially like the idea of a tea monk. Tea monks wander around listening to peoples problems and serving them the perfect cup of tea suited to their needs. How wonderful of a job does that sound?

What Becky Chambers does best is use sci-fi as a vehicle to examine human nature, and she delivers that so well here. Sibling Dex, the tea monk, has always felt as if something was missing from their life. They became a tea monk because they wanted to be closer to nature and feel as if their life had a purpose. Sometimes living a fulfilling and happy life doesn’t feel like enough. I loved how this book addressed the idea that humans are always reaching for a higher meaning, and it takes a robot to sit down and tell you, maybe there isn’t one.

Another aspect of this book I adored was how nature is intertwined with the world and the story. Splendid Speckled Mosscap, the robot, lives in the wilderness and is so inquisitive and passionate about nature. It isn’t a typical robot in the sense that people often expect them to be logical and rigid. The robots often have an intense interest in nature, and that’s borne from love and fascination. This book is set after humanity has had a large scale impact on nature, but they’re doing what they can to preserve and cherish it now. In our world, where people often have such intensely pessimistic views of the ecological future, it was great to read a piece of fiction where it isn’t perfect, but it’s getting there.

A Psalm For The Wild-Built delivers a thoughtful and optimistic discussion of environmentalism, friendship, and the meaning of life. I would recommend this book to people who love soft, hopeful reads, regardless of if sci-fi is your typical genre. I can’t wait to see where this series will go next.

CW: Bugs

(Thanks to Netgalley and Tordotcom for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review)

Author Information
Photo of Becky Chambers.

Becky Chambers is a science fiction author based in Northern California. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning Wayfarers series. Her books have also been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, among others. She has two new works coming out in 2021: The Galaxy, and The Ground Within (the fourth and final Wayfarers novel), and A Psalm for the Wild-Built (the first of her Monk and Robot novellas).

Becky has a background in performing arts, and grew up in a family heavily involved in space science. She spends her free time playing video games, tabletop RPGs, and looking through her telescope. Having hopped around the world a bit, she’s now back in her home state, where she lives with her wife. She hopes to see Earth from orbit one day.

Get this book

A Psalm For The Wild-Built came out on the 13th of July 2021 so there’s never been a better time to grab a copy!

If you want to remember to check out this book you should Add to Goodreads or Storygraph!

You can order the book from major retail sites such as Blackwell’s and Waterstones!

I’d recommend checking out your local indie bookshop! If you’re in the UK you can use Hive.co.uk!

see you next time! Luminosity Library

8 thoughts on “Is There A Meaning To Life? // A Psalm For The Wild-Built

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