When the robots of Panga gained self-awareness, they laid down their tools. An agreement was made, the planet divided in two, one half for the robots, the other for humans. The robots disappeared into the wilds, never to be seen again. Until centuries later a tea monk stumbles across a lone robot with a question in need of an answer: what do people need?

I am made of metal and numbers; you are made of water and genes. But we are each something more than that.

Is Becky Chambers even capable of writing something I don’t wholeheartedly adore? I’ve seen A Psalm for the Wild-Built described as solarpunk, and it is a vision of a much more hopeful future. Since the end of the Factory Age and the disappearance of robots, humans have lived in greater harmony with the planet. There is no conflict with the robots, they simply left, and humans learned to do things without them.

Hulking towers of boxes, bolts and tubes. Brutal. Utilitarian. Visually at odds with the thriving flora now laying claim to the rusted corpse. But corpse was not an apt word for this sort of building, because a corpse was a rich resource – a bounty of nutrients ready to be divided and reclaimed.

It’s the story of a non-binary monk who seeks some purpose in their life, choosing to be a travelling tea monk, which involves sitting and listening over a cup of tea. This was such a lovely sentiment, that a kind ear and a cup of tea can be healing. But Dex could do with a cup of tea themself at times.

Still not quite finding that contentment and meaning they crave, Dex goes into the wilds, a place where humans no longer go. There, they meet a robot. This unlikely pairing filled my heart with joy.

Every living thing causes damage to others, Sibling Dex. You’d all starve otherwise.

It’s the perfect little book about the meaning of life and the value of a good cup of tea and a sit down. I’m so happy this is an intended series, with A Prayer for the Crown-Shy due next year.

20 Books of Summer #16

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