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REVIEW: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

So I wrote this review once and then my computer decided that it would make me write it again, so this is the second time I’m getting into this review. Let’s go.

In this sequel we follow Pepper and Lovey who has now named herself Sidra. After the following events that happened in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, we see Lovey’s memories destroyed in an attack by the Toremi. Pepper offers her a new life in this body kit that they had prepared for her anyway, but she will begin her new life with new memories.

The main part of our story follows Lovey, now named Sidra who is now figuring out life in an extremely illegal body kit. She is thinking about her new life and how she can make it better when she meets a new friend Tak. Tak eventually finds out what she is and it makes him uncomfortable to know but he eventually comes to like her nonetheless and they begin a budding friendship. She even comes to him when Pepper and herself have a disagreement over attaching more kits to her body. She goes behind Pepper’s back and has Tak help her install it as she cannot install it on herself. This makes her appear more human whilst also retaining a larger memory sphere. She deals with a lot, even if anybody finding out her secret could mean her death.

On the other side of the story, we follow Jane 23 who is a girl who is genetically engineered to work in the factories. Her year group is known as the Jane’s as they are all called Jane and then a number. There are different year groups but known by different names, Claires, Marys and Sarahs. At this factory, there are AI’s known as mothers that take care of these girls but when something happens so Jane 64, it leads Jane 23 to run away and finds Owl. Owl initially helps the young girl escape by asking her to follow Owl’s voice and she does, this is when we are introduced to Owl who is an AI aboard a ship. When they first meet Owl asks Jane 23 her name. “I haven’t asked your name! I’m sorry. It’s been so long since I had someone to talk to. I’m so scattered. Do you have a name?’

‘Jane 23.’

‘Jane 23,’ Owl said. She nodded, real slow. ‘Well, since you’re the only Jane I see here, is it okay if I leave the numbers off?’

Jane 23 looked up from her bandages. ‘Just . . . Jane?’

‘Just Jane.’

Jane couldn’t say why, but that felt kind of good.”

Jane was so used to being one of many that it felt good for her to be the only Jane that Owl knew and drop the 23 from her name. It made her feel special in that one moment. From then on, we see Jane and Owl become increasingly closer as Owl teaches Jane how to fend for herself and create food and wonders from scraps which is what essentially she was doing back at the factory but this is a whole new experience for her. Eventually, Owl and Jane get split up and Jane vows to find Owl once again.

This is where our two stories meet up. It is revealed that Jane 23 is indeed Pepper. Using Sidra’s new technology, Blue, Sidra and Tak all join up to help Pepper in her quest to find Owl and the ship that she is aboard.

This book is about self-discovery and re-discovery as both of our leads struggle with what their lives where and how they must overcome them in order to succeed. Whilst there is some action in this book, it’s mainly about the character’s journey within them as this is a character driven book. Becky Chambers has truly written another amazing book but I struggled at first to get into it. This was mainly due to the fact of that I was expecting to see the cast of characters that were in the previous book and not expecting it to be an anthology series in the same world. I truly missed Ashby and the gang upon the wayfarer and wished that they could have had more plot within this book than what was written. Although Lovey and Pepper where introduced in the previous book, it’s not the same seeing the gang. This would be my only downside to this book.

Overall I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.


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