Bingo 22: Verse
I think I’ve found my preferred Becky Chambers series; the two Monk & Robot books I’ve read so far are philosophical, gentle reads that are still interesting with character and a little plot. The second one though is suitable for a ‘poetic’ category given that it opens with a poem and has a rhythm to it both in terms of the prose and the general story.
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy has a really good opening; first the prayer itself that introduces the religious bent that Sibling Dex (the human monk) seems to follow (Dex explains the basics alter in the novella). The prayer is actually in verse although the final stanza disrupts the pattern set by the first four; it’s unrhymed and somewhat open formed, but the basic sentiment matches the philosophy really well. Basically, according to sibling Dex, the gods are their own thing and don’t have much to do with humans; humans should seek out the small comforts they can because the gods aren’t watching out or out to get them, and people only really need the concept of gods for the spiritual comfort anyways; to quote the third stanza of the prayer:
They do not speak, yet we know them.
They do not think, yet we mind them.
They are not as we are.
We are of them.
Then, the first line of the novella is “The thing about fucking off to the woods is that unless you are a very particular, very rare sort of person, it does not take long to understand why people left said woods in the first place.” A tad coarse to be sure, but also somewhat poetic in the sentiment, especially being the first prose of the story.
The plot, such as it is, is basically Mosscap the robot travelling with Sibling Dex to find out how humans are doing without the robots. There’s a lot of first contact moment scattered about, and Mosscap gets to start meeting and talking with people, and also learning about the way the world works, like this kind of barter but not really payment system using “pebs”, considering the existential question of whether getting a replacement part would change his essential being, and meeting Sibling Dex’s extended family which Mosscap rightly points out is rather complicated given the polyamory nature of the family.
Dex has an issue to work through as well, namely how much they deserve the good things in their life; on the one hand this is perfectly reasonable philosophical or spiritual issue, but on the other hand there’s not much indication of where this came from with Dex in particular.
Even the bit about what to do with a fish that is caught for someone’s dinner (Mosscap understands having to kill to eat, but it’s still an uncomfortable question) gets a rather poetic response to Mosscap apologizing to the fish, which being out of water is going to suffocate; “All three sat still, and together, they held vigil as something that had neve existed before and never would again ceased its struggling and came to an end.” It’s that balance of the kind of silly and the serious again, since this episode comes in between Mosscap cheerfully congratulating Dex publicly for getting laid last night and the crazy but happy family situation. Kind of like some nice philosophical poetry followed by the f@ck word.