Review: A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers#2) – Becky Chambers

a closed and common orbitLovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for – and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers’ beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.

Rating: 4/5

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has a special place in my heart and a coveted position on my list of all time favourite reads. So the knowledge that there was going to be a companion novel filled me with both excitement and trepidation. How do you top the utter heart and joy of humanity that was so delightfully captured in the first novel?

And the answer is, you don’t. But you provide a novel that is equally as satisfying, as progressive and subversive and humorous and diverse. A novel with wry observations about people and their hang-ups and their quirks and their flaws. A book that this time around, focuses more on a mental journey than a physical one, but which is no less appealing.

In case you can’t tell, I really liked it.

“Why don’t different species sit together?” Segregated train cars didn’t mesh ith what she’d read of the Port’s famed egalitarianism.

“Difference species,” Blue said, “different butts.”

A Closed and Common Orbit focuses on the character formerly known as Lovelace, an AI originally powering a longhaul ship who has now been transplanted illegally into a human body and has to figure out life amongst our particular species. Her chapters alternate with those of Jane, a child who grows up preparing for a journey far from her abusive origins. Jane’s connection to the rest of the story is made obvious fairly early on in the novel (and indeed, in the blurb) which makes it easier for the reader understand the motivations of Pepper – a woman who takes Lovelace in and helps her adjust to her new circumstances.

Jane let out a sob she hadn’t known was there. Oouoh sat up with a start. “Oh – oh, what the fuck,” he said. “Shit, let’s get you to the med ward, come on–”
Jane stared at him. “What? Why? I’m fine.”
“Uh, no, you’re…your eyes are leaking.”
Jane laughed, which was hard to do while crying “No, no, this” – she sniffed hard – “it’s just tears. It’s okay.”
Oouoh was distraught. “What about this is okay?”
“We do this. Humans do this when – when we’re feeling a lot of things.”
“You leak?”

The novel has wide appeal – while the world-building is interesting, it isn’t too bogged down in sci-fi technicalities, which tends to put me off many of the books in this genre. It is first and foremost character driven. For instance, the details of the universe focus on the different cultures, mannerisms and appearances of the various species, rather than on the specifics of time travel or space ship engines.

“At the core, you’ve got to get university certification for parenting, just as you do for, say, being a doctor or an engineer. No offence to you or your species, but going into the business of creating life without any sort of formal prep is…” He laughed. “It’s baffling. But then, I’m biased.”

It’s about found family and the things you do for other people. It’s a rumination on what it is to be human. It is, as the title suggests, about how our commonalities can overcome our differences. Dare I say, it’s a triumphant ode about how we can be good to one another.

“Lovey’s gone, and that’s horribly sad. You’re here, and that’s wonderful. This isn’t a zero sum thing. Both can be true at the same time.”


4 thoughts on “Review: A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers#2) – Becky Chambers

  1. I didn’t go too deep into your review since as you know I’m currently reading this over the month of December with my SFF readalong group and I want to keep my eyes as fresh as possible. But I am thrilled at the rating you gave and that you enjoyed it! Can’t wait to read more 🙂


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