Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers



A Closed and Common Orbit

Book Two of the Wayfarers Series

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 385 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2016


| Rating |


| TL;DR |

The second in the Wayfarers series picks up the narrative of Lovelace and Pepper after the conclusion of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Following the story of Pepper’s past and Lovelace’s present, A Closed and Common Orbit is a tale of love and hope, friendship and family, and the struggle for identity in a vast and sometimes unforgiving universe.

This is a sequel that not only surpasses its predecessor in its richness of setting and depth of character, but opens up a beautiful and terrifying world of possibilities for the ongoing series. Utterly captivating from beginning to end, raising thought-provoking questions throughout, this is a series that really shouldn’t be missed.

| Synopsis |

The stand-alone sequel to the award-winning The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone.

But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.

| Review |

Lovelace, once the AI of the Wayfarer, has a new body. She can move and speak and interact as other humans do, but she is not human and the vastness of the world around her is an intimidating prospect. Supported by Pepper, a human unlike any other she has seen, and armed with a new name – Sidra – she must learn to live a life that she is already railing against.

But Pepper’s past speaks just as loudly as Sidra’s present and there may be more similarities between them than Sidra initially thought. Through interwoven arcs of past and present, the mirrored narratives reveal moments of joy, pain, heartbreak and success and prove that, in this universe, just about anything may be possible.

Where The Long Way was a character-driven space opera full of excitement, discovery and intrigue, A Closed and Common Orbit is decidedly not. It is instead a study of character, or two characters to be precise, and how their lives, stories and motives intertwine – and it is all the better for it. This is a heart-warming and beautiful read which questions morality and humanity and takes the reader on a character-driven journey of identity, acceptance and freedom.

The transformative journey that Sidra embarks on runs in parallel with the often heart breaking story of Pepper’s – or Jane’s – past. These two timelines draw interesting and surprising parallels throughout the narrative and explore thought provoking questions about identity, family and belonging. It also demonstrates that even in an advanced, universal society that is accepting of a multitude of species, genders and cultures, that there are always those on the outside looking in; those who feel they do not belong or who cannot show their true selves to the universe.

While some readers may be disappointed that the original and familiar crew of the Wayfarer do not appear in this sequel, their absence does not detract from the richness of the story or depth of character portrayal. In fact, A Closed and Common Orbit explores character with a profound depth and focus that just wasn’t possible in the first novel.

Sidra’s arc readily demonstrates the confusion, fear and frustration of coming to terms with her new situation, combining her endearing qualities with a petulance that makes her appear ever more human as the narrative progresses. By contrast, Jane’s story shows the fear, determination and desperation of escaping a past that defined her entire perception of the world and how, through the kindness of unexpected strangers, she became the Pepper we see today.

The interweaving arcs of Jane’s past and Sidra’s present are cleverly written and striking in their reflection of one another, resulting in a beautiful and utterly compelling narrative that sweeps you along at a steady pace and fills you with outrage, joy, sadness and hope at the turn of each page.

Unexpected and surprising, A Closed and Common Orbit took a hold of my heart at the outset and brought tears to my eyes as it closed. This isn’t a book about action or conflict, or about a quest to save a dying world; it is a book about identity, our similarities and differences, and how we can work together to make a better future. But more than that, it is a book about family, friendship and, above all, hope.

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21 thoughts on “Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

  1. A lovely review, Mogsy! And yes… I thought I’d mind about not seeing the characters again from A Long Way – but I was immediately drawn in by that amazing opening scene. This is another wonderful book from a highly talented author…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I stopped reading when I reached your synopsis, as I don‘t want to spoil myself. I liked the first book, but was really unsure about this one. The reviews of my GR friends were allover the place… will have to move it up in my TBR pile…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s completely different to the first but so so good! Even though the Wayfarer and its crew aren’t in it, the story is addictive and so so beautiful! I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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