Would you like a soothing balm for your mind right now? Dive into another charming book by Becky Chambers – the first in the Monk and Robot series. In this novel, the world has moved past the rise of sentient robots. While machines were once used for all sorts of labor, and the environment was neglected, the world that we are dropped into in this series has moved past that sort of behavior. Robots and humans live separately, and both do their best to avoid unnecessary interaction with the environment, in order to be good stewards of what life exists on their planet. Dex is a monk, and it is their most sacred job to prepare and serve tea to people. Dex is experiencing a sort of spiritual crisis, one that they don’t quite understand, but they know that they must follow their instincts to try to help make sense of their life. So, they make a choice, and in that choice they meet Mosscap, a robot. Mosscap would like to better understand humans, as part of a project to potentially reintegrate with humans – or, most charmingly, to check up on how humans have been progressing without the assistance of robots.
As in all Chambers novels, this one includes instances of people learning about one another across cultural divides. They encounter things wildly beyond their own experience, and sometimes they react to that with fear or even revulsion – but also, they make concerted attempts to move past whatever their first reaction is into something that resembles not just tolerance but real acceptance and love. Her books are the embodiment of choosing love over fear – it’s not as if people are perfect and there’s not any sort of trouble experiencing what someone else has gone through or is asking you to understand. People misunderstand in her novels all the time. But they don’t stay there, they keep moving forward. They want to know others well. They want to live in love more than they want to live in fear. Oh, how I want that, too.