A Psalm for the Wild-Built
By Becky Chambers
© 2021 TorDotCom
Kindle version; file size 3476 KB
Paperback, 151 pages.
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
By Becky Chambers
© 2022 TorDotCom
Kindle Version; file size 5020 KB
Paperback, 152 pages
It’s years after The Awakening, when robots gained sentience, and were released from subservience to go off on their own into the wilderness and explore who they were without the humans who had built them. Humans have kept their distance out of respect for the newly sentient beings, and no one has seen or heard from a robot since. So when Silbling Dex goes in search of personal discovery themself, and leaves the beaten path behind, they are completely shocked when the robot Mosscap enters their campsite and wants to be friends.
Mosscap has volunteered on behalf of its race to venture into the developed world and check on the humans. Are they okay? What can we do to help them? But the question it asks of Dex—what do humans want?—is not one Dex can answer even for themself, much less all of humanity. They vow to help Mosscap meet other humans, so it can ask its question of as many as possible and, hopefully, find a meaningful answer.
The Monk and Robot series (two books, for now) is a search for purpose, for meaning, for fulfillment, and for friendship, only to discover that these things are found in the most unlikely places.
I’ve read Becky Chambers’ work before (Books 1 and 2 of the Wayfarer series, reviewed here — and here), and was enamored of her storytelling style, her compassionate outlook, and her way of showing us what should be obvious, but so often is not. So when I picked up A Psalm for the Wild-Built and immediately fell in love with the characters, I wasn’t surprised. The introduction to Sibling Dex and their internal struggle to find contentment with their chosen life choices is so universal that it could have been directed at me; it felt as though Dex’s thoughts could have come from my own mind, even though their own path is very different from mine. When Mosscap enters the story, it brings its own unique views that, while robotic in origin, are so organic in nature that its words often moved me to my core.
While the sole point-of-view character is Sibling Dex, this is not their story alone, nor is it just a story about Dex and Mosscap. This is a story of acceptance for self and others, of boundaries and absolute respect, of frustration and the joy of discovery. Chambers’ narrative fleshes out these two essential characters in a descriptive way that leaves plenty of room for the imagination, yet reaches deep into the reader’s heart and twangs the strings it finds there. More than once, I was moved to tears by tender or telling moments between Dex and Mosscap and, when the last page was turned on book 2, I felt bereft. I did not want their story to end.
The Monk and Robot books will speak to readers who enjoy a deeper message embedded within a well-told tale. Heartfelt, evocative, and sincere, both books in this series will likely touch the emotions of all who enter their pages. Most highly recommended.