This book was the one I was completely desperate to get back to, post-University term. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet earlier this year was immediately one of my favourites, and this one is just as good. A Closed and Common Orbit take places in the same universe as The Long Way, featuring some overlapping characters.
Chambers picks up those characters and their situation from the end of The Long Way and to keep the warmth of the story, and yet does something different with this book.
It isn’t necessary to have read one before picking up the other, though I would recommend it, mostly because they are both brilliant, and I can’t see any reason to limit yourself to the joy of one, when there’s another 365 pages to be had. It makes most sense to take them in chronological order, simply because you’ll have the full context for where this story picks up.
A Closed and Common Orbit follows two story-lines, years apart. Initially, we meet Lovelace: a ship’s artificial intelligence, waking up in a new body after a complete system reboot. Excitable engineer Pepper is the friend who takes her in to try and help her find her way. Alongside this is the story of Pepper’s young life, as Jane 23 – part of a slave class created by a society of rogue engineers. These two stories complement each other beautifully.
What really struck me about the writing, which is different to The Long Way, is that both of the voices this story is told in have limited perspectives which influence the language they use to describe things, which is handled perfectly. Lovelace/ Sidra considers the body kit separate to herself, and thinks in terms of pathways and technical commands. The language used by Jane is that of someone learning and making sense of new things – as she learns swear words, understands names and concepts she had no need for previously and so on.
For me, these books really do have everything I’m looking for – they are gorgeously, joyously written and completely delightful to read. I’m piling on the superlatives because that’s how I feel when reading them. I want to fall in love with beautiful, flawed characters. I want a delicious plot which is neither boring nor incredibly stressful. I want detailed world-building without it dominating the story. I want unique, intelligent, crafted writing. Every single one of these is something I find in Becky Chambers’ books. I can’t wait to fall into another perfectly crafted novel of Chamber’s creation – but in the meantime, I will very happily read both of these again.