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

29475447Verdict: I love Becky Chambers optimistic science fiction despite its pacing issues.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date Read: January 23rd, 2018

Published by Orbit, 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

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.

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.

I absolutely adore Becky Chambers’ brand on optimistic science fiction. It is filled with wide-eyed, immersive, positive energy and I LOVE that. I love how inclusive her imagination is and how thoroughly thought out her world is. The aliens feel exactly that: alien. They are different not just in the way they look but in the way they think and behave and in the way their societies are structured. But still, the different races exist more or less peacefully and most people we meet along the way do their damned best to be nice to others. I find this so very refreshing.

This is a stand-alone follow-up to The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet (which I enjoyed immensely) that is very loosely connected. Here we see Lovelace trying to adapt to her new life with Pepper, as well as learning more about Pepper’s childhood. However, much like the first book, the plot is rather incidental and for a very long stretch this feels more like a series of vignettes where Becky Chambers shows off her impressive imagination. Unlike the first book, this got a bit slow for me in parts. Maybe because the cast of characters is not as big or maybe because the novelty wore off a bit. But in the end, she combines the different stories skillfully and with an emotional punch, that I cannot begrudge her the way of getting there.

I love stories centering on identity (this comes as no surprise), and Chambers does this skillfully and as I said thoroughly optimistically. I adore her ruminations on what makes somebody a person and how this might change as technology adapts. Her themes of belonging and family (born and found) are important. I love how at the core this is not about science as much as about sociology. And I love the warmth her stories have. I cannot wait for the third part to release later this year.

First sentence: “Lovelace had been in a body for twenty-eight minutes, and it still felt every bit as wrong as it had the second she woke up.”


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