Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

Friday 20 January 2017 by

A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers, Hodder & Stoughton, Book, Reading

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Published by Hodder & Stoughton

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 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.


Part two of the Wayfarer series from Becky Chambers, A Closed and Common Orbit tells the story of Lovelace once she has left the ship and crew we fell in love with during The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. She is taken by Pepper to set up her new life, but as an AI in a synthetic body, she is illegal and therefore must live in secret. Thankfully, she has Pepper and Blue, who are also outcasts, to help her through.

If you loved The Long Way to Small Angry Planet, you’ll love this just as much. I have to admit that I missed the crew from part one, but Lovelace and Pepper make for excellent company and you soon find yourself caught up in their adventures.

The one thing Becky does so well is to create these complex societies, species and structures. It feels invigorating to explore this world, to uncover what’s next and who’s next and how this new species looks and thinks and behaves. It feels almost like an anthropological study, but they are all fictional. And because she writes these so well, the characters are rich and bold and fascinating. You can read science fiction all your life, and still be surprised by it. That’s how it feels with Chambers. She eschews many tropes of sci-fi, whilst indulging gleefully in so many others. It feels joyful and inclusive to be a part of this world.

In a way, it feels right that this story should step away from its beginnings. Lovey would never have fit in to the tiny spaceship of book one, and so it feels only right to have an adventure with her elsewhere. Some of my favourite parts of sci-fi are the bits where they land on planets, so there was a certain amount of satisfaction in having a whole book to discover this one.

A Closed and Common Orbit is just so good that I can’t even review it properly. I get too excited. Chambers is an absolute joy to read, with a knack for a turn of phrase and creating some of the most interesting intergalactic species I have ever had the pleasure of coming across. Even if you don’t like reading science fiction, I implore you, read the Wayfarer series.


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