17 February 2020

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

Posted by Callan Bentley

This is the second novel in Chambers’ Wayfarers science fiction series, but it’s very different in plot structure from the first, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which I reviewed a couple weeks back. In this sequel, two of the characters from the first book, one minor and one major (but with her memory wiped clean), settle into a comfortable galactic backwater. As the novel unfolds, the backstory of the minor character is built up, revealing her traumatic past and plucky resolve. Meanwhile, the other character, an artificial intelligence, reckons with her existence, and how she wants to exist in a society that doesn’t see her as a person. They are joined by two other (new) principal characters: a stuttering human artist, and an alien tattoo parlor proprietor. Though ultimately the two story lines converge with a common conclusion, the beauty of the novel is Chambers’ exploration of the characters’ humanity, and in “humanity” I include both the aliens and the AI, too. I found myself missing the characters I’d come to know from the first novel, but deeply appreciated the chance to explore more with these new folks, to feel their developmental journey and growth. Recommended.