In 2021, Becky Chambers introduced readers to the moon of Panga, where, centuries ago, the civilization’s robots gained consciousness and, en masse, walked off into the surrounding wilderness and were never heard from again. Until the day a robot named Splendid Speckled Mosscap walked up to Sibling Dex, a tea monk, and asked “What do people need?”
In A Prayer for the Crown Shy, Chambers returns to Panga and follows Sibling Dex and Mosscap as they travel through the different areas and settlements of Panga on their way to the City. Like our world, each settlement has a different personality, whether it is the mini-City of Stump, Shipwreck’s technophobic inhabitants, or the farm where Sibling Dex was born and raised. And each location lends itself to observations, conversations, and ruminations about, with deference to Douglas Adams, life, the universe, and everything.
Like A Psalm for the Wild-Built, A Prayer for the Crown Shy is a quiet novella that is quirky, thoughtful, and hopeful. The award winning Chambers expands the world, or more properly, moon building begun in the first novella to show more of Panga’s inhabitants, how they live and how they have recovered from the ecologically disastrous period that almost destroyed their world, moving to living in harmony with it and its eco-system. Panga was not only very much like Earth’s present, but also represents a future we would be lucky to achieve.
In A Prayer for the Crown Shy, there is no “sophomore slump,” but a strong continuation of the thoughtful and hopeful explorations begun in the first book in this series. One can’t help but remain hopeful that the next entry will live up to the high bar set by the first two.