I discovered to my horror while reading an arc for Monk and Robot #2, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, that I never finished my review of A Psalm for the the Wild Built. I’m also not surprised, because my love for it overwhelms me into a flailing state of indecipherable babbling and crying.
There are some novellas that are like the Tardis, so much bigger than you think they could possibly be. I’ve listened to A Psalm for the Wild-Built three times now, and I keep being surprised that it’s a hair over 4 hours long. There’s so much story in this story.
On this inhabited moon, relation to our Earth unclear, humans have built a society that is low tech and eco-friendly, but still has devices like tablets or smartphones. Some hundreds of years in the past, there were factories and in those factories, robots produced goods for human consumption. One day the robots decided they didn’t want to work in factories anymore, or have anything to do with human. The robots and the humans agreed to go their separate ways and divided up the continent so that they could live unbothered by the other. No violence necessary. It’s sounds like a pretty conflict resolution to me.
In our story’s present, Sibling Dex is a monk who decides to become a traveling tea monk because as much as they love their life in the city, they want an undefinable more. Possibly to hear the sound of crickets. After feeling like a failure in their first outing as a tea monk, they strive to become the best tea monk possible. After a few years traveling and perfecting their craft, they are certainly one of the best tea monks on Panga and the dissatisfaction has crept in again. Instead of turning right one day, they turn left and venture into the dangerous wilds. In the wilds, he is discovered by a robot, Splendid Speckled Mosscap. Mosscap has been sent to discover how the humans are doing and find out what they want. Dex is flummoxed, confronted by a question they cannot answer for themself, much less for a robot with limited understanding of how human society has progressed since the Robot Awakening.
Friends, I resonated with Dex’s dissatisfaction. I am not as capable or dedicated a perfectionist as Sibling Dex, but I have pursued something doggedly, realized I had reached the pinnacle of my ability in that area and then never wanted to do it again, even when it was my job and I had obligations. I am better about that cycle, because it is destructive, but it’s involved a couple of rounds of blowing up my life and then years of therapy. I completely understand why Dex stubbornly insists on taking the abandoned road searching for an abandoned monastery where there might be live crickets.
I have done an incredibly poor job of selling this book or explaining my love for it.
Chambers gives her 160 page book a spacious and lyrical feel. It doesn’t rush to the end, but gently propels you there. The point isn’t the destination, or even necessarily the physical journey, but the connection with the characters and the world.