A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

The premise of Becky Chamber’s novel A Psalm for the Wild Built really appealed to me. Set in the future or maybe on another planet, a travelling monk leaves his order to go back into nature hoping for time alone. He meets a robot, one of several thousands who left humanity behind generations ago after achieving sentient intelligence.

A robot and a monk traveling the wilderness in an old gypsy wagon. I’m there.

Both are looking to discover just what has become of humanity. The monk looks inward into himself while the robot looks for contact with humans.

The result is more gentle meditation than adventure. There are slight road trip/hero’s journey elements here, but that’s not really wat this volume is about. Look for excitement elsewhere. A Psalm for the Wild Built is the science fiction/fantasy equivalent of an old cosey, that sub-genre of mystery fiction that’s really more about the comfortable chair you sit in while you read it than it is about crime.

I enjoyed A Psalm for the Wild Built and I will be reading the second book in the series–I already have it checked out from my local library. I except I’ll end up reading the third book once my library gets it. I do have two questions/issues.

First, the future setting of the novel has fully embraced gender-neutral pronouns so I can’t say that we ever really know for certain if the hero was male or female at birth. Who knows, maybe non-binary is the way humanity will go in the future. However, I kept reading the protagonist and the robot as both being male. Am I reading the book or is the book reading me? If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s not an important issue at all when it comes to enjoyment, in any case.

Second, and this can be seen as more of a complaint, A Psalm for the Wild Built is a very slight book. You can read it in a long afternoon, which is fine. But if you’re going to ask the reading public to plunk down $20.99 and then ask for payment again with two more books to get the complete story when they all could easily fit in a single volume, I think readers have a right to object. If you’re buying these in hardcover, you’ll end up paying nearly $63 dollars for something that could have been 28.99.

Kind of a racket if you ask me.

Fortunately, my local library will be stocking all three volumes.