A Psalm for the Wild Built
This book was so ridiculously recommended I had to see if the hype was worth it and hoo-boy, if you need a good book to listen to on your way to/from work, or when you’re dreaming about the woods from your cubicle, pick it up, I beg you.
Sibling Dex is a monk who just wants to hear crickets on the moon they call home. After two years of traveling around to the different towns and cities, and becoming one of the best tea-monks around, they decide to take a spontaneous trip to an abandoned monastery in the hopes of finding those crickets. What they didn’t plan on was for a robot, the first any human’s seen since the peaceful revolution of the robots, steps out of the woods and asks them a very fundamental question: “What do people need?”
I think the only real problem I had with this book is how abrupt the ending was. It felt like an unfinished conversation, and I would’ve been upset if I didn’t immediately have access to the sequel. Still, there was no leading off, there was just THE END, which is certainly a stylistic choice and probably supports Mosscap’s conclusion that we don’t need a purpose, but it left me feeling…unfinished.
Otherwise, I loved this book. Like American Royalty, but for a completely different reason, I certainly shouldn’t have been reading this at work. It made me want to throw my nametag at a manager and run away into the woods. It couldn’t have come at a better time, though, since I’ve been chaffing against my job and my classes right now, but I don’t have a true break until November! Ugh.
I loved the casual way Dex is introduced. They’re nonbinary, and it fits so seamlessly into the language that it makes me laugh about all the various homophobic/transphobic arguments that using ‘they/them’ pronouns in written works would be confusing, because it really wasn’t. While it can be argued that perhaps a cisgender woman shouldn’t be writing a nonbinary character, and talking about an identity Chambers doesn’t share with Dex, I think she did it in a very respectful manner. But I am also a cisgender woman, so it’s not really my place to be voicing opinions concerning ”good” representation.
I am also not a philosophy major, but the main takeaway points from this novella don’t really require you to be, which is refreshing. I find a lot of stories like this one try to be “too deep” and it just makes my head spin. There’s a certain amount of gatekeeping and pretentiousness that comes from trying to write a philosophical novel that “not everyone will understand, gosh,” but Chambers wrote something that appeals to everyone, no matter your understanding of philosophy and whatnot. It’s also why I recommended it to my VERY career-frustrated, love-to-go-camping boyfriend. I think he needs a story to pick apart, and that will explain that it’s okay to feel this way right now, and he loves narratives that challenge his own view of the world.
I simply loved Dex and the world around them. It’s so refreshing to see a society that has communally agreed to take care of the world they reside on, especially in the current climate here on Earth. I did see someone’s negative review saying “maybe I’m cynical, but I just couldn’t believe humans would act this way” and I think they’re missing the point. While this society isn’t perfect, it’s idealized, and that’s the point of the book. What if we could all agree on one small thing, that our planet deserves better? The point is the ‘what if..?’ and it gives you a little bit of hope in this abysmal situation happening here and now. It’s so easy to go on a doom spiral with the news and everything, but A Psalm for the Wild-Built gives you that little nudge of hope, and I really appreciate it.
Mosscap is so sweet! I love it. Based on it’s interactions with Dex, I’m so excited to see how it reacts to the rest of the world. It’s going to have a field day in the city! I really loved the way that Mosscap challenged Dex and their preconceived notions. It paralleled wonderfully with other thought lines we have here, now, and drove me out of my comfort zone, which is always how you learn things about yourself and the world around you.
Overall, I had a great time with this book. I was a little upset at the price range of a new copy ($21 for a novella that‘s only 160 pages??) but I know Chambers hardly has control over that. I would suggest trying to find it at a used bookstore, if you want your own copy, because I feel like that‘s more on theme with the story, haha.
Did I like? Fuck yes.
Would I recommend? Absolutely, especially if you dream of disappearing into the woods one day.
Trigger warnings: alcohol (no drunk people, but a discussion on drunkenness), animal death (discussion topic), cursing (Dex is an adult), grief (discussed, and more like grieving a way of life)