A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2)

By Becky Chambers

Rating: 5 stars

Update 2018-05-14: second time round, I loved this book as much as I did previously. The only comment I’d make is that since I now knew where Jane’s story was going, I could engage much more with Sidra early on. Definitely a book that rewards rereading.

Original review:
I didn’t think it would be possible, but I adored this book almost as much as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I thought I would miss the crew of the Wayfarer too much, but the Lovelace instance last seen leaving the Wayfarer in an illegal body, in the company of a tech wizard slowly enchanted me. This book tells both Lovelace’s (soon renamed Sidra) story and that of Pepper, and why she is so keen to help Sidra. For the first half, I found Pepper’s story much more engaging than Sidra’s, as she was suffering worse (or, at least, more relatable) deprivations.

But Chambers is better than that, and she slowly draws you into Sidra’s head and you feel for her as much as you do for Pepper and then she draws the two strands together at the end in a joyous and satisfying conclusion that may leave you blubbing but buoyant and with no AI-cide this time round, either!. Speaking of blubbing, I made the mistake of reading this on public transport, and was welling up more than once (Owl meeting Jane in the Big Bug sim was a roundhouse to the feels!), so be warned.

The theme of AI rights, which was touched upon in Small, Angry Planet comes much more to the fore here. Like in Ann Leckie’s Ancilliary books, it’s something where (sentient) AIs are taken very much for granted in this world and aren’t considered worth spending any time on, but as we found out in Small, Angry Planet, they can grow, feel and fall in love. Sidra is constantly terrified that others might find out what she is, and she’ll be terminated, because she’s not considered to be a person. And this fear means that she has to hide who she really is, and deny her self and her purpose.

I hope that this thread will be picked up again in later books, but given how different this is to its predecessor, I’m willing to bet that Chambers will surprise us all over again. And I, for one, am hugely looking forward to it!

Book details

ISBN: 9781473621473
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Year of publication: 2016

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