Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is both a follow-on to the previous one that picks up right where it left off and can be enjoyed as a standalone book. That’s quite a magic trick that Becky Chambers plays there, but it works very well. Essentially, the end of the first book necessitates the characters in this book leaving all the other characters alone and not really interacting with them. It’s also a very different kind of story. While The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is basically Firefly, with our crew going from planet to planet having vaguely linked adventures, this book all takes place in one place.

Actually, since the book alternates between the present and Pepper’s backstory, it takes place on two planets. But each story essentially takes place on just one planet. We met Pepper and Blue at Port Correal (I listened to the audiobook, so I don’t know how to spell it) when the crew in the first book stopped to get supplies. Now we spend lots of time with them and one more character as they delve slightly deeper into some of the alien cultures introduced in the previous book. In the backstory POV we grow to understand why Pepper is the way she is.

When the the last book was making a point, it was about sexual identity and polyamory. This book and its central story can easily be seen as a metaphor for a trans identity and feeling like you don’t have the body that matches your identity. It also touches a lot on exploitative capitalism by taking the fact that in the real world we ship our waste to poorer countries for processing and scales that up to a planetary scale and even more exploitation. And yet, at least to me, the book never became too preachy. It was telling a pair a compelling stories that happened to have some pretty neat metaphors enabled by the science fiction background.

I once again enjoyed that narrator of the audiobook version. They do a good job with different voices for the characters involved.

Once again Becky Chambers has created a universe full of the types of friends we all deserve. There are mean people (like the people who set up the scrap planet), but the friends and family in here are excellent and makes a dip into this universe a real treat.

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