Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers


Image: Hachette UK

Space opera has never been one of my preferred sci fi subgenres — my tastes lean more towards dystopian and social science fiction– however I adored Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, so I was excited when I heard she was writing another book set in that world.While the story picks up where Long Way left off, A Closed and Common Orbit isn’t so much a sequel as a spin-off. Rather than chronicle the next adventure of the Wayfarer crew, Chambers’ second novel follows the ship’s former AI system, Lovey (now called Sidra) as she tries to adjust to life in her new body.

Chief among her supporters are Pepper (who also played a small but memorable role in Long Way), a spare parts dealer based in Port Coriol, and her artist partner, Blue. Through a series of interwoven flashbacks, we learn about Pepper’s traumatic upbringing as one of the so-called “Enhanced”, and why she’s willing to risk everything, even her newfound freedom, to help a being most people wouldn’t consider sentient, much less human.

The book’s two narratives complement each other, exploring each woman’s struggle to find meaning and acceptance in an unfair world. In one particularly profound exchange, Pepper points out that while history is made up of idealistically-opposed groups oppressing each other in the name of control, “Nobody has ever figured out how to make things better for everybody.”

Warm-hearted, intimate, and beautifully-written, I would recommend this to anyone who doesn’t mind having their worldview challenged, whether they’re a space opera fan or not.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers is now available for pre-order and will be published on October 20, 2016.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reading Copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.


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