Book: A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers 2) by Becky Chambers
Release Date: October 20th 2016
Tags: Sci-Fi / Character Driven / Adult / Companion / Artificial Intelligence / Clones / Diversity / LGBTQ+ / Non-Binary / Bigender
Other books in this series I reviewed
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Possible spoilers for the previous books in the series
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.
Newsflash: Becky Chambers can seriously write. But needs to stop giving her books such long titles.
Holy shit, we’re doing this!
Last year I finally read A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and fell in love with it. A Closed and Common Orbit is a great companion novel but doesn’t quite live up to the first book. For me in any case.
At the end of A Long Way Lovey, an artificial intelligence aboard the Wayfarer, is rebooted and it changed everything. With no memory she leaves with Pepper in her new body-kit. And has to find her way out in the real world where it is illegal for her to exist. The book focuses on two point of views. Obviously we follow Lovey as she finds her way. The second point of view is of Pepper. Not the present Pepper however, but a past Pepper. When she was still called Jane.
I struggled a lot with Lovey’s point of view at the start. So little happens in her chapters in comparison to those of Jane that it left the contrast become very big. It also didn’t help that there was no real surprise in her story line. It was a lot more interesting to see what would happen to Jane than what would happen to Lovey. However after about 50% this became better. Lovey becomes more of a person. And especially the last 25% was reminiscent of A Long Way. The two point of views finally came together and at the end of it all I got that strong family sense again. Just a different family this time.
I did however really grew to like her. She really does transform into her own person who makes her own decisions about herself, who works hard to fix her own problems. Whereas with Pepper, her back story made me understand her a lot better. Knowing where she and Blue come from. It is hard to think about how shitty people can be, and yet we have them in our own world as well.
‘And you guys, you guys invented AIs in the first place. Sentient code didn’t exist before you wrote it down.’ She shrugged. ‘Life is terrifying. None of us have a rule book. None of us know what we’re doing here. So, the easiest way to stare reality in the face and not utterly lose your shit is to believe that you have control over it. If you believe you have control, than you believe that you’re at the top. And if you’re at the top, then people who aren’t like you…well, they’ve got to be somewhere lower, right? Every species doe shits. Does it again and again and again. Doesn’t if they do it to themselves, or another species, or someone they created.’ She jutted her chin toward Tak. ‘You studied history. You know this. Everybody’s history is one long slog of all that horrible shit we’ve done to each other.’
‘It’s not all that,’ Tak said. ‘A lot of it, yes. But there’s good things, too. There’s art and cities and science. All the things we’ve discovered. All the things we’ve learned and made better.’
‘All the things made better for some people. Nobody has ever figured out how to make things better for everybody.’
The overall mood of this book is also darker. There is some humor in this book but a lot of the book is about the struggles they are going through. A lot of it is turned inwardly instead of outwardly conversations about things. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The characterization and character growth are spot on and so well done.
For most of this book we aren’t on a ship. But on the planet that Pepper resides on. It is interesting to see a bit about the intricacies of how this planet works. The different species and their own culture and customs. We get to meet Tak, who becomes a good friend to Lovey. They are non-binary and specifically bigender I think. Tak can change genders and seems to take the pronouns of whatever gender they are at that moment, male or female. This is a part of their species and they have implants in their cheeks to make it easier for them to change.
But there are more things like that that show how diverse Becky Chambers has created her world. It is one of the things I love about these books. The well crafted world.