Recently read: Chambers’ “A Psalm for the Wild-Built”

Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Tom Doherty Associates), 2021. (Amazon; Bookshop)

If you want a review of this book, I recommend Amal El-Mohtar’s for NPR: “A Monk And A Robot Meet In A Forest … And Talk Philosophy In This New Novel”. It’s what led me to buy it!

I don’t read much fiction or SciFi but this was a great book. It’s set in a somewhat pleasant post-apocalyptic world where humans avoided catastrophe and learned how to live sustainably. At some point, robots became self-aware and humans agreed to give them their freedom in the wilderness, so humans and robots don’t interact and haven’t for a long time. Except a monk (of a future, pantheonistic, nature-based religion) named Dex wanders into the wilderness (driven there because of their existential crisis) and runs into a robot named Mosscap. Mosscap guides Dex in their wilderness journey to keep Dex safe and as they travel their conversations turn philosophical.

My favorite part is when Mosscap questions Dex as to why humans are obsessed with having a purpose. Mosscap can’t understand this since humans celebrated robots choosing their freedom-to-be over their intended “purpose”. Mosscap says,“…why, then, do you insist on having a purpose for yourself, one which you are desperate to find and miserable without? If you understand that robots’ lack of purpose—our refusal of your purpose—is the crowning mark of our intellectual maturity, why do you put so much energy in seeking the opposite?”

I’ll write a couple of blog posts about this book in the near future.

This is the first novella of a triquel by Becky Chambers (fellow Northern Californian!). It’s a quick read (I finished in less than a day) that leaves the reader anticipating the rest of the series. I highly recommend.


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