A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers
Published by Harper Voyager on October 18, 2016
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 4.36 (as of 2019-08-15)
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.
After adoring The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which planted Becky Chambers firmly on my auto-read list, I decided I better read the rest of her backlist (and continue the Wayfarers series). A Closed and Common Orbit picks up right where The Long Way leaves off and while it could be read independently, I wouldn’t recommend it. The plot of this book relies heavily on the ending of its predecessor, so spoilers from the first book will be present here.
As before, my favorite part of reading this was the characters. The main character, Sidra, is the AI formerly known as Loveless, now present in a human-like body known as a kit rather than controlling a spaceship. I really liked Sidra and found her journey towards finally feeling one with her body to be quite compelling, although I’m sure it will resonate more with some than with others. Sidra goes through a lot as she struggles to integrate into a world she wasn’t necessarily meant to be in, although she has plenty of support along the way.
Pepper and her partner Blue have taken guardianship of Sidra in order to protect her and help her find her place in the world. Pepper has a soft spot in her heart for AI, for reasons we soon discover through flashbacks into her childhood. I’m a big fan of the dual timelines when done well, which I feel Chambers has done here. And Pepper is such a fun character that I was happy to get more of her — and Blue!
Again, Chambers tackles a lot of futuristic moral issues: namely, are AIs people? As one would expect, the answer is a resounding yes but I think the way she demonstrates it is quite good. She also delves more into the cultures of other alien species, which is another thing I really liked about The Long Way. I think the aliens and the societies she creates are so fascinating and I just love learning about them. Rather than an info dump, we are taught by experiencing it all through the lenses of human (or human-designed) characters, which I think gives it a more authentic feel.
Basically, I’m just totally in love with Becky Chambers’ writing and I can’t wait to read the next book in this trilogy. I’m also quite excited about her upcoming novels. If you liked The Long Way, I think you’ll also like A Closed and Common Orbit.