A Closed and Common Orbit
Today I am bringing you my first review/book of 2017! I decided this year that I wanted to carry on with a tradition that I had of reading a Becky Chambers book as my first book of the new year, and this was the newest one that she has published. Becky Chambers wrote The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which I read last year, this book is a companion novel following one of the original characters in book one as they go on an adventure in Port Coriel. Science fiction is something that I do not often times read because I fear the amount of science that will be present within the book, however Becky Chambers has created a style that is easy to comprehend and enjoy. This allows the reader to focus on her diverse cast of characters and their intricate storylines that all come together to reveal her topical and pertinent themes.
Though this book is a companion novel and technically can be read first I would highly suggest you pick up The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet first, you will have a greater connection to the main character of Sidra within this book. This book follows Sidra who is an AI system that is now in a body kit and is able to move around and interact with people as a normal sentient being would. Seeing the AI (Sidra) learn how to cope in the real world with the difference in perspective than she is used to really gave insight as to what it would be like as an immigrant to a foreign land. Sidra has it rough for the first little while but she is able to catch on rather quickly once she is immersed in the world. I love this book for the themes that it speaks about and how the characters interact with one another.
Chambers has a unique style in this book where she uses alternating chapters to share two converging storylines, though it is predictable who the second chapter is within Sidra's story I found this technique to be engaging and fun. Usually with a dual perspective I am leary as the author will not give the two characters different voices, however here the storylines of each vary so drastically that it was easy to discern who is speaking. As seen in the first book, these characters are endearing and well written. The depth of character growth and personalities that is seen within Sidra, Pepper, Blue, and Tak gave me a sense of friendship and comradery that seldom is attained in novels. Through well crafted writing and detailed characters the aspect of this story that I enjoyed most is Chambers commentary on Sentient beings and AI systems.
Sentient beings and AIs are a common theme within the world of Science Fiction, however Chambers explores what it would mean to have an AI that is sentient and not demonic. In this case I feel that the AI in question, Sidra, is completely stable and should be allowed to live within society even though that is not what their law dictates. Seeing her learn about the culture she is in and how the world works was fascinating as the reader is able to get into an AI's thought process and appreciate her motives and goals, rather than instantaneously vilifying her because she is not supposed to be in her body kit. Having compassion for all walks of live is important, and in this book Chambers has explored that well with Sidra and her rag tag group of alien friends. We also see from the AI's perspective on where she would rather be, for example since she is a ship AI she enjoys being up in the high nooks of corners and observing everything which to us is odd but for her would be normal and remind her of her old function. With all of her quirks, Sidra, shows the reader that regardless of what you were "designed" to do you can break your mold and integrate into new scenarios with friends and a few trial and error runs.
This book was comedic at times and discussed rather pressing topics such as AI "life" and sentient beings role in the technological world at others, however these themes and characters wove together to form an engaging and fun story about the little AI that could...
Rating: 4.5 stars
This is not a full five stars for me just because I was not so attached to the plot of this book as I was with the first, however I still thoroughly enjoyed it and urge you all to go and read it!
And please remember not to judge a "book" by its cover...