A PSALM FOR THE WILD BUILT
Written by Becky Chambers
Published by Tor.com, July 13th, 2021
My star rating – 4.5 stars
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.
This is the first book that i’ve read outside of her Wayfarers series and, before going into it, i’ve heard that it’s a little different. Some people who loved the Wayfarers series didn’t like this one, while others who were equally obsessed with Becky Chambers writing still loved it. I can say three things. 1 – This is definitely different than that series (but the same – I’ll get to all of that in a second) 2- Though it was a little bit different, it was still written by Becky Chambers so, of course, I loved it! 3 – Becky Chambers is a new all time favourite author!!! I wanted to add her to my “all time favourites list” but I don’t do that until I’ve read something outside of their first series. But now, she’s definitely gained her spot 🙂
Let’s talk differences. The first difference is that this is a novella. Coming in at only 160 pages, this is far shorter than her other series. Part of me enjoyed that while the other part of me was sad because I felt that there wasn’t enough. I was satisfied, of course, but there seemed to be room for a little more if she added in a few more pages. I think the main reason for that is that this is only told from one perspective. In her other series, I got so used to multiple perspectives from multiple different settings/worlds/areas that it didn’t feel as chaotic and the story felt smaller. Those things aren’t negatives in any way, I’m just taking note for comparisons sake (because there are a few people out there who were asking). Another obvious difference is that this book doesn’t take place in space. It takes place on earth? (or at least a planet that is inhabited by humans).
The pace was also a tiny bit slower but I REALLY didn’t mind. Her books are always motivated by characters and this is just the same. There’s almost no plot to this whatsoever. We have a character who is a monk then, one day, they decide that they are no longer fulfilled with their position and attempt a new career path, all the while on a mission to hear a real live cricket sing…. that’s about it folks! If you don’t enjoy slice of life type stuff then you’ll want to stay away. But, if you enjoy amazingly written characters and following them on their lives and destinations, then you;ll love this!
Obviously having said that, character development is a key point here and Becky Chambers is unparalleled. Not only do we have an amazing human character but we also have a robot. Robots were a huge part in the daily lives of humans and then they one day decided that they had enough and left to go into the woods on their own. Humans actually respected that choice (i’m surprised…) and adjusted their lives to continue manufacturing, farming, etc without the use of robots. We didn’t get an actual perspective from a robot but we did see how they interacted with each other and even understood each other. It was so fun to read the communication between the two!
I also loved that there was literally no gender to the characters in this book. Our main character went by they/them pronouns and the robot didn’t have an assigned gender either. If you’re not accustomed to they/them pronouns then it might trip you up just a tiny bit. But reading this might help you get used to it so…..another reason you should read this book!
The atmosphere of this novella was probably my favourite part. Such “cottage core” and small town vibes! It was so comfortable, quaint, lazy, and slow. There was a lot of emphasis put on connections and understanding and most of that came from just being there to listen, empathize, and stay in someone else’s company in good times and bad. It felt a little like a hug…. a human, character, robot, nature’y hug. And I loved it!
So I guess that what i’m trying to say is that I loved this so much and can’t wait for more! That cover is gorgeous and Becky Chambers writes characters that I feel in the very pit of my soul. If you’ve ever read and enjoyed a Becky Chambers novel, then I have a feeling you’ll love this one just the same.
Oh. And I had to add this picture I took. Because it’s so perfect!
Until next time, happy reading!