Title: A Psalm for the Wild-Built.
Writer(s): Becky Chambers.
Release Date: July 13th 2021.
My Overall Rating:
What if the greatest war to come is not one between sentient robots and silly humans? What if the greatest war to come was within the mind itself? A war that can only be won if we were to look beyond the superficial and exploitative nature of humankind to seek what we only dream to embrace: Peace. Solace. Respite. Even with all the necessary conditions aligned, staring at our faces, some eternal questions will inevitably remain unanswered. Writer Becky Chambers (Wayfarer series) looks to explore these questions through two unusual characters who have lost their way only to find it again, together. In this new series, she looks to delve deeper into the existential questions that unanimously drive each and every one of us to doing the things that we believe in.
What is A Psalm for the Wild-Built about? Centuries into the future, robots have acquired consciousness and indulged their self-awareness to repurpose themselves, putting aside their programming to scoot off into the wilderness. Countless years have passed since this awakening, and with a human-robot pact, securing peace and solitude, robots have never been seen again, withering away into oblivion, becoming a thing of the past, a part of history, a story of myths and urban legends. One day, Sibling Dex however decided that they would embark on a journey as a tea monk, brewing them for those who would appreciate having someone listen to their stories. A chance encounter with a wandering robot, however, coincides with an opportunity for the both of them to learn valuable insights on life, as they both reflect on a question that many have failed to find truth and purpose: what do people need?
“What do humans need? is an unanswerable question. That changes from person to person, minute to minute. We can’t predict our needs, beyond the base things we require to survive. It’s like… It’s like my teas.”— Becky Chambers
Having never read anything by this author before, this novella turned out to be a wonderful specimen of her work. Her writing style in this brand-new universe is both delicate and detailed, offering a unique and visionary world only nuanced by its peculiar protagonist and their eventual companion. Although the narrative’s driving force lies in the candid dialogue rooted in existentialism, there is an impressive accent put on the world-building that gives the entire novella a much-needed layer of mitigation to allow those questions on life and purpose to be digestible by the reader. They say that the most unlikeliest of relationships are made when you least expect it and both human tea monk Sibling Dex and robot Splendid Speckled Mosscap find each other when they most needed it in their lives and this life-changing encounter is what makes this journey (and first installment) so enjoyable.
These non-binary characters do plunge deep into some much-needed introspection and discussions around the purpose of life but the depth abruptly restrains itself from going any much further than what would have been intriguing to read about. With the intriguing dynamic that both of these characters form, it does offer a formidable premise to work with, and there’s no doubt that sequels will allow to push their dialects and visions further but for the time being, this gentle foray into philosophical interrogations felt tamed. This, however, is in no way a critique but rather a preference, as the nature of their conversations, coupled with the writing style and the world-building, makes for a wonderful invitation to a third member into this chat: the reader.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built is an introspective journey blanketed in comfort and respite as a monk and a robot exchange on life and their purpose in it.