I had such high hopes for Becky Chambers. Alas, I was disappointed with A Closed and Common Orbit. The book itself is a fine story, but it was not what I expected. The book is presented in its description as a sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet that will show the continuing adventures of the Wayfarer crew. It doesn’t do that at all. [SPOILER ALERT] The book instead follows Lovelace, the ship’s AI, after she is uploaded to the kit and leaves the Wayfarer with Pepper. Pepper and Lovelace are great characters, and a book with two strong female protagonists, especially with one being an AI, is fantastic. It isn’t what I was promised when I purchased though, which sounds petty, but I did spend money for something specific.
That disappointment aside, the story was an entertaining listen. As I said, we’re blessed with two strong female characters. The plot is built on Pepper’s back story and how she ended up owning a parts shop. If you read the first book, you know name choice is incredibly important to modders. Sadly, Chambers didn’t explain why Pepper chose her name.
The second part of the story is based on Lovelace’s search for identity and purpose in her new body, that itself being a coming-of-age type of story. It raises a lot of interesting questions about identity and anxiety. The questions Chambers explores about creating an intelligent being hearken back to earlier similar tales such as Frankenstein and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I expected a little more adventure, but the story leans more toward cerebral. If I had known what the story was about, I probably would have waited to listen to it until I was more in the mood for that type of thing. I will likely give it another shot and listen to it again one day, and I will give Chambers another shot as well and see what else she has out there. After all, the poor marketing of the storyline probably wasn’t her fault. If you want space, strong female leads, and questions about identity, this book is definitely for you.