A Closed and Common Orbit

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Closed and Common Orbit
Becky Chambers, 2016

Premise: An AI with an illegal amount of self-determination sets out to start a new life with the help of a technician with her own dark origin story. Sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

It’s been a while since I read the first book in this series, but this story manages to be the kind of sequel that doesn’t require you to remember much of what happened the first time around. Because of the events at the end of the previous book, these characters are more or less starting a new story and forging a new path.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit, despite the fact that the plot is fairly small and subtle. The narrative jumps back and forth between two times. In the present, the AI “Sidra” is learning to live in a body and relate to organic life forms with the help of technician Pepper. In the past, we learn about Pepper’s childhood as a cloned slave and how she escaped that life.

We know from the beginning that Pepper made it through okay, and although the stakes in the present are high for Sidra, most of the conflict is emotional and often internal. Happily, that emotional conflict is well-handled and compelling. Both plotlines explore questions of identity and what constitutes a sense of self.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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