A Psalm for the Wild-Built

“It is difficult for anyone born and raised in human infrastructure to truly internalize the fact that your view of the world is backward… even if you know that the wilderness is the default state of things…. you will still struggle to understand that human constructs are carved out, and overlaid, that these are the places that are the in-between, not the other way around.”

Panga was an industrial and technological society until the robots gained sentience and left. In the centuries since, Panga has rebuilt itself as a sustainable society (see Ecological Civilization; Sustainability), only distantly related to the oil-run Factory Age of the past. Dex (they/them), a tea monk of Panga, spends their life traveling between villages and providing support and tea to those who need it. But Dex is unhappy. They set out to travel in search of a purpose and meet Mosscap, a robot looking to reconnect with humans after hundreds of years without communication between the two species. Together, Dex and Mosscap set out on a journey through the natural world, untouched by humans, in an attempt to understand one another, themselves, and the environment around them.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built builds a non-dystopian future where humans emulate environmental sustainability. The story tells of a future with hope, a scarcity in contemporary young adult literature. The Post-Factory Age that Chambers constructs acknowledges the crisis of anthropogenic development, and provides insight to a future beyond, in which Dex and their fellow humans live in a society based on sustainable practices. Still, it is not irresponsible or naïve in its depiction of a hopeful future. Consequences of human change are present, such as when Dex learns that nearly all species of cricket went extinct before humans took action (see biodiversity loss)—despite this, it shows a world in which humans, animals, and robots coexist. With the character of Mosscap, Chambers provides insight into the checkered past of Panga and questions the structures of human culture from the perspective of a robot. All the while, Dex’s journey urges the reader to question anthropogenic development, and to imagine natural spaces untouched by humans. The novel is a breath of fresh air in a slurry of young-adult dystopia, allowing reflection on possibility, while still emphasizing the need for change. Dex’s character is relatable, and their journey handles identity, burnout, purpose, and environmental justice all in a way that does not feel profoundly heavy.

©2024 ClimateLit (Kirsten Schoff)

Publisher: Tor.com, 2021

Pages: 160

ISBN: 9781250236210

Audience: Rebels (14-older)

Format: Novels

Topics: Anthropocene, Biodiversity Loss, Ecological Civilization, Environmental Justice, Extinction, Hope, Human Expansionism, Human Impact, Industry, Planetarianism, Resilience, Rewilding, Solarpunk, Sustainability