A closed and common orbit (Wayfarer No 2)
I love this book, and most importantly I love the two main characters Jane and Sinda. It is Si-fi space opera as the futuristic setting is a backdrop for a story about relationships and personal identity. This book is a stand alone sequel to Becky Chambers first book A small way from a small angry planet, which I have posted a review below. I have just reviewed them in this order as this was how I read them. I didn’t feel at any time that I was missing any information that I needed to enjoy this book fully despite not reading it in the chronological order. .
Jane is an escaped slave clone who was brought up and protected by an AI called Owl who she found housed in a wrecked shuttle after her escape from her creators and Sinda is an AI who used to exist in a ship but now has her own body kit despite these kits being illegal and the risks of detection being death for the AI. The book runs on two timelines. The present day when Jane (now called Pepper) and Sinda live with Peppers partner Blue on an alien world.
Jane 23 starts off living with a group of other 10 year old clones all called Jane with a number, the jobs of the “Janes” is to sort and mend any scrap that is brought to them. They live a strictly regimented life controlled by the Mothers, faceless robots who control and punish. Early on in the narrative an explosion which kills many of the girls shows the sky outside, something they have never seen before and Jane 23’s curiosity leads to her escape and her bunk-mates probable death. Jane 23 escapes into a huge scrapyard and finds a broken shuttle with an AI called Owl. Owl who has been alone for years, mothers the frightened 10 year old child as best she can and guides Jane towards their eventual escape the planet.
The second timeline is several years in the future when Jane has changed her name to Pepper and is successfully living on an alien world, running a repair shop. She has secretly got an illegal body kit for her AI friend Lovelace who once installed into the kit changes her name to Sinda to avoid detection. It primarily deals with adjusting to existence as an autonomous entity inside a body and all the adjustments that she has to make. Also body kits for AI’s are not legal and if discovered by the authorities Sinda would be essentially killed and Pepper and Blue would be in trouble.
As with all Becky Chambers books the characterization is the key elements in these books, we really get to know and hang out with them and their struggles for identity and survival.
Most of the second timeline after describing Sinda’s transition into a body and the issues associated with the is the search for the location of the AI Owl who was lost after Pepper escaped.
I love how this book describes the lives of two women who in their society and probably ours if cloning is perfected and AI’s become sentient, are considered to be worth less than other people and are in Sinda’s case illegal in her current installation. It also questions the ethical implications that go with creating a sentient creature to be a slave and potential abuses of this. On the other hand it doesn’t feel like a heavy psychological text, we are just introduced to personalities who obviously have feelings and thoughts and as a species we will have to tackle these issues sometime.
Buy this book on Wordery
A long way to a small, angry planet (Wayfarer No 1)
This is the first of the wayfarer books, and I read them back to front due to what I found in my library, saying that it didn’t really matter and there where no massive spoilers. This books is about the crew of the Wayfarer who’s job is to create stable wormholes in space for interstellar trade routes. They are a small outfit with a handful of interesting characters, primarily human but with several other species in their crew. Due to the fact that they have hired an certified administrator, they get a lucrative job creating a wormhole to a world with aggressive aliens (hence small angry planet) that are due to join the GC, which is the alliance between worlds of which humans are a part.
I loved this book, almost as much as a closed and common orbit, it is totally character driven and for two thirds of the book not much happens but it doesn’t matter as we get to hang out with the crew. None of the characters are a main protagonist and the crew as a whole are the ones we care about and that really works, they are a team and depend on each other, even when they don’t all like each other.
“Ninety per cent of all problems are caused by people being assholes”
“What causes the other 10 percent?” asked Kizzy
“Natural disasters” said Nib.
It also deals with the interesting fictional phenomena of inter-species relationships and even with a human falling in love with an AI.
I would recommend these books to almost everybody there are some sex (well coupling) and there is some talk about completely fictional drugs but nothing a 16 yr old couldn’t handle. If I read it to my 8 yr old I would have to skim over a few bits. There is a bit of violence but nothing at all gruesome.
Buy this book on Wordery
About Becky Chambers
She is an American woman raised to parents with an aerospace and astrobiology backgrounds, she studied performing arts working in theatre administration before starting writing. She is openly gay and married.
Number 3 in the wayfarer series is due to be published early next year, and if the publishers read this I would adore a ARC in any format, you can almost guarantee a glowing review and I can’t wait to read it.