book review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

“Life is terrifying. None of us have a rule book. None of us know what we’re doing here. So, the easiest way to stare reality in the face and not utterly lose your shit is to believe that you have control over it.”

I might have found my favourite sci-fi author ever in Becky Chambers and I wish I could accurately describe what this book made me feel and taught me. Here is my try at that.

[Also, please note that this book has probably the most beautiful cover I have ever seen, I can’t stop staring at it.]

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Synopsis

Lovelace 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.

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A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

My rating: ★★★★★

 

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (review here, please read this amazing book!!!) was for sure one of my favourite sci-fi books of all time so naturally, I had a lot of expectations for this sequel. But, it’s not really a sequel as you’d think.
This book follows Lovelace aka later Sidra, an AI who just moved into a body kit and left the Wayfarer behind as she adapts to her new life and the world around her with the help of Pepper. It also follows a young Pepper as she escapes from her terrible upbringing and is raised by an AI and also has to learn about basically everything.

Pepper’s and Sidra’s stories aren’t necessarily closely linked but thematically they fit together so perfectly. Both women have to grow into their new selves, they have to adapt and learn and overcome plenty of things. They are supported by some amazing people but some challenges they have to face alone.

I found both stories just… incredible. Sidra’s development and her adapting to a life in an actual body is so unique and it mentions so much I never considered about AIs.

The law forgot to make space for people like me.

Sidra struggles with her surroundings and her new life and she has to deal with the fact of her own illegality. Pepper is trying to help her but she has this hole in her heart left by her parent who was taken from her by the same laws that force Sidra into carefulness.

The discussion of AI rights and of what makes humans and other species who they are, of art and of history, of tradition, parenting and education, was absolutely fascinating and so on point.

The topics brought up in this book are important and so interesting and I wish all sci-fi would ask similar questions because I’m absolutely living for it.

“She felt as though she could reach out to that little girl and pull her through the years. Look, she’d say. Look who you’re gonna be. Look where you’re gonna go.”

Both women are wonderful characters. They are flawed and make decisions I don’t always like but they both have these beautiful arcs and these amazing relationships with the people around them that make me want to cry. I think I actually did cry in the end…

The “side” characters, Blue and Tak, are both awesome and so nice and especially Tak is super interesting and I love that we learn more about one of the species only slightly mentioned in The Long Way.

After the Illuminae trilogy this is now the second time I really love an AI. Please give me more of these complex and fascinating creatures!

The species/sexuality/gender/etc aspects weren’t quite as prominent in this book compared to the first one but that is mostly due to a reduced cast that is mostly human. The world building was still as amazing as always and I LOVE learning about the planets and cultures and ALL THE THINGS about ALL THE SPECIES. I feel like Becky Chambers could write a dozen books about this universe and I would read every single one of them.

This book is rather slow-paced but for me, it was still a space adventure with all the themes I love. I could talk forever about how relatable Sidra is (there is literally a moment where she’s upset because no one is eating cake – bless her), how badly I want a pet dragon or how much I want Tak to have a discussion with me about art and history. This is such a fascinating and vivid story about incredible characters and a universe that is maybe better than any other I ever came across.

I just can’t wait for more.

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Have you read this book or any of Becky Chambers?

See you soon ❤

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