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A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) Paperback – March 14, 2017
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“As with her amazing debut, the power of Chamber’s second space opera is in her appealing characters [...] Her protagonists might not all be human, but they possess more humanity than most” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Chambers uses her considerable talent to take a more focused and contained look at a gut-wrenching story of self-determination and personal autonomy [...] No matter what beautiful and strange world Chambers takes us to, we can count on her to lead with humor and heart.” (RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars))
“Warm, engaging, properly science-fictional, A Closed and Common Orbit is a very likable novel indeed.” (The Guardian)
“A Closed and Common Orbit may be smaller in scope than the book before it, but in its focus and its force, in the sheer delight it takes in the discoveries it documents, it’s as fine and as fantastical and as fun as Chambers’ absolute darling of a debut.” (Tor.com)
“As good, smart and satisfying as its predecessor...If there was such a thing as a Cosy Space Opera subgenre of Speculative Fiction, Becky Chambers’ series would likely be listed alongside the equally excellent On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.” (Book Smugglers)
“While most sequels feel the need to go bigger and bolder, Orbit is a more intimate story than its predecessor, exploring trust, the mind/brain paradox, and unease with one’s body, while examining the ways someone without a family makes their way in the world and forms their own connections.” (AV Club)
“For any of us, life as we think we know it can change at any time. A Closed and Common Orbit simply reminds us that, in a universe of immense and wondrous possibilities, there’s no shame in finding oneself a novice here anew.” (Strange Horizons)
“Humane and alien, adventurous and thoughtful, vast in its imagination and wonderfully personal in the characters it builds. But above all else, it is joyously written and a joy to read.” (Claire North, author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August)
“Great fun!” (Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice)
“Becky Chambers’ debut novel . . . is probably the most fun that you’ll have with a space opera novel this year. It’s exciting, adventurous, and the cozy sort of space opera that seems to be in short supply lately. . . . Not to be missed.” (iO9)
From the Back Cover
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 shutdown 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.
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I wanted to read her second book in the Wayfarers series. My mouse cursor hovered over the "Buy Now" button for about 10 milliseconds before the rational part of my brain said "Naaaahhh". She is good, but she is not a great author and there is no way I would spend 10 dollars on a kindle book by her.
Many of the things I praised Becky Chambers for in Long Way are not present in this book; here she doesn’t make space feel so wide open and dangerous and beautiful, but instead makes cities and planets feel small and special and homey. Similarly, she doesn’t spread her attention equally among a cast of characters as she so expertly did in her first book, but keeps us near to two women whose paired stories illuminate the universe held within Closed and Common. This isn’t to say that this sequel showcased none of the same qualities as the first. As in Long Way, Closed and Common features a diverse cast of alien characters and as before Chambers wastes little time in the clumsy or drawn-out introductions that so often plague science fiction stories. She makes them clear to us, at once thoroughly understandable and completely alien. And as in book #1, Chambers mixes lighthearted humor with dread and fear and heartbreak and all manner of loves, so that her book is as thrilling and entertaining and emotionally restorative as it is illuminating.
If I’m being dramatic (as I so often am about science fiction) this book is proof that the kind of science fiction that serves to examine what it is to be human is alive, is well, is thriving. It would not be exaggerating to say that in reading Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit I came to a better understanding of myself and the place I choose for myself in society. I literally stopped and took notes – not for this review but for myself, for later, for living.
In short, Becky Chambers writes with an earnest voice and tells stories full of complexity, transcending taste and style and allowing her characters, her stories, and her messages to speak to readers all over. If you have even a passing interest, this book is worth the read.
I’ve loved Becky Chambers since I got through the first 10 pages of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet last year. The way she creates and describes alien cultures is so real. Honestly, it makes you feel like these species have been around your whole life, not that you’re just learning about them now.
In her last book, I loved the way Becky Chambers played around with gender. Some of the alien creatures she describes change genders throughout different periods of their lives. This also means that their pronouns change many times in the book. A Closed and Common Orbit was no different. Tak, one of Lovelace’s friends, changes from female to male. No one questions it or struggles with the pronoun change. Tak just is Tak and everyone adjusts to the way their identity changes. I think Chambers does an amazing job showing that gender is a social construct and, also, that it is completely different from sex. In addition, everyone is assigned gender-neutral pronouns until they indicate their gender or pronoun preferences. This kind of trans-inclusive language is key for transgender folx to feel safe and respected, and it really makes the reader think about the preconceptions we hold about people before getting to know them in our own society.
Becky Chambers completely has the sci-fi formula down pat. She includes everything you need in a well written, page turning, science fiction novel. Some of these ingredients include a system of unique planets that house different species, space travel, artificial intelligence, alien cultures, and alien relationships. I have yet to come across another author who completes their sci-fi formula so efficiently. I swear, I could give A Closed and Common Orbit to anyone, even those who don’t enjoy classic science fiction novels, and they’d enjoy it. She really knows what she’s doing.
Lastly, I want to point out the way Lovelace is treated– as a character. Yes, she’s a spaceship program loaded into a body kit. Yes, she’s not considered a full human in her world and is technically committing a crime by merely existing. Despite all this, Chambers treats her like a ‘real’ person and gives her the same existence as everyone else in the book. I know AI’s aren’t really part of diverse reading, but it was comparable, in my mind. Giving someone, who society considers a less-than, the same opportunities in a story as the rest of the characters is what queer characters, characters of color, and characters suffering from chronic illnesses want to see in literature. I know it’s not the same, but I felt really good reading A Closed and Common Orbit for this reason (and many others outlined in this review!).
Just as I expected, I absolutely loved this book. It’s definitely different from her first book, considering most of the plot takes place on a planet and not space, but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. I will continue to support Becky Chambers throughout all of her works, as I recognize the importance of the way she treats gender, in addition to the extraordinary way she describes alien species and their behaviors. If you’re looking for an outstanding science fiction novel, this is it.