In A Closed and Common Orbit, author Becky Chambers leaves behind the Wayfarer starship and most of the characters introduced in the first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Instead, this second book focuses on Lovelace, the Wayfarer’s communications interface whose consciousness has been rebooted into a human-looking body, or “body kit,” that the sentient AI calls Sidra. Lovelace is finding life to be difficult to get used to as Sidra, especially since aside from recalling her initial programming as a ship’s computer, she has no memories from her time with the Wayfarer.
Thankfully, there’s a manual to help her adjust to her new body kit containing information such as directions on as practicing hygiene (she doesn’t actually sweat, but she can get dirty), doing fun water tricks (she’s waterproof!), and how to safely ingest and dispose of food and beverages (she needs no sustenance). Oh, and even though she doesn’t need to breathe to live, she has to remember to appear as though she’s breathing. That’s because body kits are highly illegal, and her engineer friend Pepper (also from the first book) has risked a lot to bring Lovelace into physical existence.
As we journey with Sidra as she adjusts to life as a human (or at least as something passing for human), we’re told a separate story from the past about Pepper’s early life as Jane 23, one of the many bio-engineered human clones intended for slave labor in factories. Jane’s tale begins as the more emotional one, set in a dystopian society where the young girl has no freedom or free will, and isn’t aware of what she really is or that an outside world even exists.
Originally published in hardcover in 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton (a Hachette UK company), A Closed and Common Orbit was recently given a paperback release in the U.S. by Harper Voyager, with beautiful new cover art, though the edition retains UK style. The new cover, with its 1980’s science fiction vibe, immediately grabbed my attention and made me want to explore this Wayfarer world.
Though the premise of the book is inherently science fiction, with its intergalactic travel, artificial intelligence, and hi-tech gadgetry, the story is more of an emotional journey of the sacrifices made for friendship and the search to uncover one’s own purpose. With A Closed and Common Orbit, Chambers presents to us a clone and an AI, two beings that historically are not meant to garner emotional attachments, and manages to create two tales, which eventually intertwine, that tug at the heartstrings. Even though there’s plenty of technical aspects sprinkled throughout, the writing is clear and compelling, and is, at its core, a human interest story. After just the first 10 pages of the first chapter, where Lovelace has awakened in physical form, and Jane is a 10-year-old factory worker who wonders where she came from but is too frightened to ask, you won’t want to put this book down.
Embark on an exciting, adventurous, and dangerous journey through the galaxy with the motley crew of the spaceship Wayfarer in this fun and heart-warming space opera””the sequel to the acclaimed 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 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 that beloved debut novel, and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect, and Star Wars.