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A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers {5 Stars}

Becky Chambers has done a superb job in writing this unique, engaging, and entertaining sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (spoilers for Angry Planet after this!).  Set in the same rich, multispecies universe, the action picks up just after the end of the previous book and follows the development of Lovelace, the rebooted AI of the Wayfarer, who decides to leave the ship in a highly-illegal simulated body.  Her journey of self-discovery and growth (while trying to avoid detection) is paralleled by that of a young escaped clone, Jane 23, who must rebuild a shuttle in order to flee the planet where she was kept as part of a slave work force.

The struggles of both sentients for self-determination and freedom kept me turning pages even as the philsophy student in me delighted to have found one of those special science fiction series that characterize the best of this genre – raising questions about ethics and the definition of personhood while spinning a good yarn in a detailed, vast, and complex universe.  Brava!!

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers {5 Stars}

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers #2)
Published by Harper Voyager on October 18, 2016
Genres: Adult, Sci-fi
Page Length: 365 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
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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.

5 Stars

Strengths:

  • Yet again, Chambers has written wonderful, diverse characters and set them in a science fiction universe that is believable as well as incredibly exotic.  I loved the main characters and would book a long flight just for the joy of hanging out with them for a while.
  • This book reminded me of why I love science fiction.  Some races have more than one gender, and working around the pronouns for gender neutral (or gender unknown) people can be tricky, but Chambers has settled on one of the forms used by the LGBT community … and uses it consistently and frequently enough that it stops feeling awkward.
  • In both story lines, the main characters are strong and resilient, facing daunting challenges.  Sometimes there are tears or anger at their fate.  Sometimes they want to give up.  But they keep going.  If you enjoyed Weir’s The Martian, you will find a similar feel to Jane 23’s struggle.
  • Despite the changing POV, the novel holds together and flows smoothly.  The occasional choppiness of Angry Planet … has been left behind as Chambers grows as a writer.

Weaknesses:

  •  I think you can read this sequel without having read the first book of the series, but you will be missing out on quite a lot of the richness of the universe.  Many aspects of alien culture that were detailed in The Long Way are only mentioned in passing as this story unfolds.  While a new reader won’t be confused, you would miss out on some of the fun of being an insider.

Summary:

If you liked Firefly, Babylon 5, The Martian, or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I recommend that you pick up this series and dive in for a real treat.  You can read it on multiple levels, enjoying it as a science fiction adventure, an examination of how diverse species would get along together, or a consideration of the ethical questions of how personhood should be determined.  It is both enjoyable and deep.

Try for yourself!

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?

– Barbara

 

 A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by BECKY CHAMBERS

© 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.

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