Saturday, August 20, 2022

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk & Robot #2), by Becky Chambers (author), Em Grosland (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250808646, July 2022

The tea monk Sibling Dex, and the robot Mosscap, are arriving back in the human-inhabited areas, so that Mosscap can pursue his mission of discovering the answer to a great question. What do humans want?

As they arrive in the first village, the people greet them with enthusiasm, Yet when Mosscap asks its question, the responses are all very practical--a door needs repair, a bicycle has a flat tire, some more complex machinery needs repair. Dex is worried that Mosscap is being taken advantage of, but Mosscap is happy to help, and feels it is learning something useful about humans. As they travel, Mosscap gets very similar answers everywhere--very practical, immediate needs on the one hand, and on the other, a desire for everyone to have their social and emotional needs met as well as the practical ones.

And then a part breaks in Mosscap, and it can't maintain its balance anymore. Dex changes their travel plans, to get to the  nearest village that has a 3D printer and the man who runs it. At no point do they call it a 3D printer; it's just a printer. On the moon-world of Panga, the humans don't normally print books on paper; they read them on computers. It's 3D objects that need to be printed. 

Replacing Mosscap's broken part proves much more challenging than expected, but not for technical reasons. The robots of Panga, living in the wilderness, don't attempt major repairs. If they can fix themselves with materials they find in the natural world, they do. If they can't, they accept the gradual decay of their functions, and when they stop working, eventually their still-usable parts are used to build new robots. A real technological repair is an ethically and philosophically challenging for it. It gets even more complicated when Mosscap learns of the range of natural-sourced materials to choose from for its replacement part.

Meanwhile, Dex is experiencing burnout--has been for a while; it's why they took their tea-wagon and went into the wilderness and met Mosscap in the first place. They haven't wanted to do tea-service in a while, even though they have enjoyed it and believe it is very valuable, and they feel guilty about needing a rest. Their message to all the people they have helped with tea-service is that they don't have to be useful and productive to be wonderful and valuable, yet they are struggling to accept that message for themself.

We have two nonbinary characters traveling through small settlements, meeting some very interesting people, and working their way through philosophical questions. And it all feels like a warm, satisfying pot of your favorite tea.

This is not a book of action and adventure. It's a book of good, kind, and interesting people, trying to do the right thing.

I loved it.


I bought this audiobook.

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