Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

29475447Series: Wayfarers #2
Published by: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 1473621445
ISBN 13: 9781473621435
Published: October 2016
Pages: 512
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

The first book in this series, A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, was about a crew on a space ship – much like Firefly, for those who love the Whedon tv show – that’s piloted with the assistance of an AI known as Lovelace. It follows a young woman, Rosemary, who departs into space for adventure for the first time… and though this second book is quite different, following a different core group of characters with only brief mentions of the characters from the first novel, it’s much the same in that we have a young person making their way into the world and trying to discover themselves, the world around them, and a whole lot of other things too.

In this second book of the series we have Sidra, and each alternating chapter takes place approximately twenty Solar years prior to follow one of Sidra’s only friends, Pepper, until the two chapters meet in the present where we are now. As things begin to unfold and we get to learn more and more about Pepper (one of the few characters brought on from the first book), and why she may be struggling with certain aspects that Sidra is also struggling with, we understand so much more and have deep sympathy for them both.

These are sci-fi books that take on so much more than a bit of space and some character development. Some books say they explore what it means to be human, but it’s rare that you come across a book that does that to such very fine detail as A Closed and Common Orbit does. Beyond racism and gender politics, how many lines of code does it take before an AI program that can respond in such high levels of input and response, and form its own personality, can be recognised as having as someone that deserves as many rights as a human? When you have so many species out there in the big black, all with varying forms of communication abilities, what makes anyone so different from another? What if you weren’t atypically born, do you deserve the same rights as others? And so on.

Both books could easily be stand-alone and the reader would feel content. They’re so well written though, that the reader will grab them both and more as soon as they’re released, and still look forward to the next. This is such a lovely, heart-felt and detailed and dedicated series that I’m getting even more excited to see what the author has for us next.


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