A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

BLOG“The planet was beautiful. The planet was horrible. The planet was full of people, and they were beautiful and horrible too.”

*Because this novel is a sequel, this review may contain slight spoilers for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

A Closed and Common Orbit is a stand-alone sequel to one of my favourite science-fiction books, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. In the original novel, we were introduced to a crew aboard an intergalactic ship called the Wayfarer, and followed their journey to a small, angry planet. Here, we follow the character of Lovelace, who served as an artificial intelligence system for the Wayfarer and is on her own path following the events of the first novel. She finds herself in a new body and with no memory of prior events after a full system shut-down, and is slowly figuring out the world and her place within it. Alongside her is Pepper, an engineer with a difficult and painful past, who is determined to help Lovelace.

The novel takes turns, chapter by chapter, following Lovelace’s current journey and telling a story from the past. There is no grand plot or action, instead the focus is on the characters and their lives. While The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet felt more expansive as we got to know different planets and beings, A Closed and Common Orbit feels more contained. I love reading character-based stories so I was really at home with this one. It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of the novel with the switch in story from chapter to chapter, but once I got into the groove I felt connected to the characters and their narrative. The two stories compliment one another well. As with her previous novel, Becky Chambers does an exceptional job of bringing fascinating worlds to life and giving depth and emotion to characters that makes everything feel so very real. By the time I finished the last page, I have to confess I was a little teary-eyed. Continue reading “A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers”

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

BLOG“From the ground, we stand;
From our ships, we live;
By the stars, we hope.”

Exceptionally smart and undeniably charming, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the tale of a crew of nine diverse characters, their personal journeys, and one grand mission.  We start by meeting a woman named Rosemary who has been hired as a clerk on a tunnelling ship.  The job of the ship is to punch holes in space, creating a direct route between locations.  The ship is comprised of a crew of individuals of various species, each with interesting backgrounds and personalities.  When a small, distant planet with a violent and mysterious history is accepted into the Galactic Commons, the crew is hired to make the long trip there and punch a tunnel that would allow quick back and forth travel.  Throughout the course of the journey, we get to know the characters, learn about their lives, and enter an incredible galaxy.

Becky Chambers creates a galaxy of different worlds and species with a fascinating history.  Everything is very well developed and springs to life page after page.  It just works on every level; the characters, the dialogue, the description, and it is apparent that it was all done with great care and thought.

This is not your typical science fiction story.  It is less an action packed whirlwind through space, and more of a character-centred journey that explores the complexities of the galaxy and asks important questions.  It provides an interesting view of Humans through the eyes of different species as well as our own biases when looking outside ourselves.  There were a number of points in the book where the author could have gone the standard route, but she stays true to her characters and delivers a story that is captivating, endearing, and thought-provoking.  This is a book I will definitely be re-reading for many years to come.

Favourite passage: “The truth is, Rosemary, that you are capable of anything. Good or bad. You always have been, and you always will be. Given the right push, you, too, could do horrible things. That darkness exists within all of us. You think every soldier who picked up a cutter gun was a bad person? No. She was just doing what the soldier next to her was doing, who was doing what the soldier next to her was doing, and so on and so on. And I bet most of them — not all, but most — who made it through the war spent a long time after trying to understand what they’d done. Wondering how they ever could have done it in the first place. Wondering when killing became so comfortable.”