I’m not sure how Becky Chambers does it, but in such a compact little book, she built a world that was at once familiar and very new.
A Psalm for the Wild Built follows a monk named Sibling Dex, who decides to uproot their comfortable life to become a travelling Tea Monk. Why, because they want to hear crickets, which they’ve only ever heard through recordings. And Dex gets great at being a Tea Monk but still hasn’t heard crickets and so takes a daring decision to find one of the places where crickets were recorded.
The world isn’t our world, but there are similarities. While the world was more at balance now, it had been exploitative in the past (hence the lack of crickets). The event that changed this was the robots becoming sentient and walking off into the wild. Of course, you can imagine what then happens to Dex.
The world building is so well done that you don’t even know it’s happening. Suddenly you are immersed in this place, where you’ve hardly spent any time at all. Even the fact that Dex, while a ‘monk’ is neither a Sister, nor Brother, but a Sibling (they describe themselves as having no gender), was effortlessly explained through interaction, was lovely. The language and descriptions are beautiful and the characters delightful. It’s so beautiful, hopeful and humanist to the core. I absolutely loved it.
All I want now is more. I want to spend more time in this strange, but familiar, and lovely little world.