Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

closed and common orbit coverThis is the sequel to A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, but it also works as a stand-alone; you don’t have to know the characters and the world to pick this up!

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 to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone.

But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Character-focused, philosophical, moral, full of stories and thoughts and places and the universe, all in one beautifully woven story…I knew I adored Becky Chambers’ writing from her first book, but this just cements it. She has a way of weaving everything in together and telling a story while you’re caring about the characters that means you’ve suddenly got to the end of the book and you’re somewhere between crying and smiling, but you’re not sure why.

It’s a gentle and sweet read, but one that also tugs you along; I was reading this on my commute and I did not want to put it down. I was reading it while making dinner and kept forgetting to stir things. I actually let my tea go cold! I had to read one more chapter, one more paragraph, just to find out what happens next…

We get to see more of the universe and the cultures in this sequel, and it’s all so inventive, so different – and yet everything works together. Yes, there’s horrible people and places, there’s bureaucracy and frustration and anger and hate. But there’s so much love and hope, and I think that’s what I love most. You come away from the stories realising that even if everyone is so, so different – somehow, they can make those differences work.

The story itself is sweet; the two timelines follow Jane from her start as a worker in a factory, sorting scrap, and Lovelace taking her first steps in a human kit-body after being a ship’s AI. But the two stories wind together at the end, and I love seeing both of them grow.

So yes. Sweet, adorable, thoughtful, growing and wonderful. Read it. Read the previous one. And then read them again.