Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Interesting new title from Becky Chambers

I didn’t know this was coming out:

This definitely sounds like a promising novella. From Goodreads:

In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of galaxy transform themselves.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

That last line gives the whole thing a wistful tone. I wonder if Chambers makes the slightest effort to justify somaforming, or whether she just handwaves past the science-y parts? I could see handling this either way. Given it’s a novella, probably the latter.

Has anybody tried this one yet? What did you think?

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2 Comments Interesting new title from Becky Chambers

  1. Laurel B.

    I read an e-galley of this last week. The description is a bit misleading: it is more about the psychology of exploration than it is about the somaforming concept (which, yes, got handwaved). I found it disturbing and moving, in ways I was completely not expecting.

  2. Sandstone

    I’m getting Vonda McIntyre vibes from the concept, e.g. Superluminal and the Starfarers series (which might be in the same universe?) have people modifying their bodies to be able to survive faster than light travel or live in the ocean, also a little bit Nancy Kress’ Beggars in Spain trilogy that starts with people being genetically engineered not to sleep and snowballs into a plot where most of the population of Earth becomes able to photosynthesize (I thought overall the trilogy was one of diminishing returns as it went on though!)

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