A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #2
Published by HARPER Voyager on October 18, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
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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.
I absolutely loved reading A Closed and Common Orbit. I enjoyed reading the sections on Pepper/Jane 23 more than on Sidra/Lovelace but when taken as a whole, I wanted to hug this book!
I felt that A Closed and Common Orbit clearly exemplifies the idea of “if you can’t see it, you can’t dream it.” That idea is one of the most often ideas brought forward when discussing inclusive and/or diverse actors on TV shows and in movies. I think A Closed and Common Orbit is a perfect example of that entire argument. The girls/slaves on Pepper’s home-world were not to know about better. Everything about the way they were raised and utilized showed a determination to keep them as ignorant as possible. They were not to know about different. About individual. Because that would give these “created slaves” fodder for dreams. And dreams lead to wants and movements and action – all things that would disrupt the pipeline of ease the Enhanced’s lives. Pepper’s beginning as a slave was sad and lacking but with knowledge and freedom, she flew.
I wasn’t as interested in the Sidra/Lovelace storyline as I was in Pepper/Jane 23. I feel that I might have lost interest in Sidra without the Jane 23 storyline. Especially since I felt Sidra went from newly conscience to teenage angst in 2.5 seconds. Teen angst is NOT my thing – I disgusted myself as a teen. I think that Sidra was so focused on her “native set up” because she spent less than 24 hours as a ship AI – she doesn’t have any real clue as to what that would mean for her as she never really lived it. Before this, Sidra was (to me) very much the teen who hated her parents because she didn’t ask to be born. By combining the two storylines (Sidra and Pepper), Chambers was able to make Sidra more interesting and ratchet up the tension in one stroke.
I did enjoy watching Sidra learn and grow – to go from being the snotty/bratty teen to an adult. I also enjoyed the fact that Sidra thought about her body as a kit. It threw me off at first but it makes total sense – and I totally appreciate that Chambers didn’t attempt to make Sidra completely human.
“I was housed in a ship. I’m now housed in a body kit. My place of installation changes my abilities, but it’s not mine. It’s not me.”
I love this explanation of how Sidra feels about her body – especially in comparison to this quote:
“Tak sat on the floor, leaning against the doorway that led into the core chamber. ‘So,’ she said. ‘This is you.’
‘No,’ Sidra said. ‘This is the core. It’s not me. It’s just where most of my processes are taking place. For the time being, it’s… it’s my brain, I guess.’
This shows that Sidra was starting to realize the core reality of being a bodied being: being more than the sum of your parts. I am not my brain, my fingers or my skeleton. I am a mixture of all of that plus my memories and my experiences and my dreams. And then even more. My husband often says that “You are not your body – you are the driver of your body but it can work without you.” And this is very true.
The kit was restrictive. It wasn’t enough. But it was also autonomous. It was hers. No one could force her to raise a hand or walk across the room. In the kit, she could walk when she wanted to walk, and sit when she wanted to sit. She could run. She could hug. She could dance. If she could alter her own code, then the kit wasn’t the end limit either. For all the things the kit wasn’t, there was so much it still could be.
My heart was in the Pepper/Jane 23 storyline, no matter how much I enjoyed Sidra/Lovelace. Watching Pepper go from a scared child to an empowered adult was marvelous. I ate it up with a spoon and much time at work was spent in the bathroom to get some (extra) quality reading, lol. I cannot even begin to explain my dismay with Monday – I was so wrapped up in Jane: watching her run away, meet Owl, grow and become free. I just wanted to hug Jane.
Initially, all three (Jane/Pepper, Owl, and Sidra) were drifting alone, in a way. Well, Pepper and Owl were together for a long time but they were wrenched apart. And though Sidra had Pepper and Blue, she felt completely alone most of the time.
Then in the Pull section, different actions, people, and information started to pull the three together. If Owl hadn’t rescued Jane… If Jane hadn’t rescued Blue… If Pepper hadn’t rescued Sidra…
And then in Circle, the Drift and the Pull finally meet: all of the things that Owl, Pepper, and Sidra did: which included saving Blue and befriending Tak – made it possible for their little family to exist.
Ugh! So lovely. I’m getting misty-eyed all over again.
One of the things that has kept me entranced with Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series is that she is intentionally creating a very realistic universe in all its hypocritical and complicated glory – and then NOT focusing on that. Chambers’ focuses on the micro and not the macro and her characters are all “common man” people. They are not the politicians and leaders nor are they special snowflakes out to save the galaxy. They are just the regular people trying to find happiness. By focusing on the “small guy,” Chambers allows us to relate, get attached and cheer for someone that “we could know.” And in the end, although this world is not perfect, I leave every read with cheer in my heart and a huge smile on my face.