Week 2: A Closed and Common Orbit Read-Along

Sci-Fi November might be over, but that doesn’t mean the sci-fi fun has to stop. Our Read-Along of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers has officially begun. If you’re interested in participating, hop on over to the SF/F Read-Along group for more information; we’d love for you to join the discussion. Have you read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet, the first Wayfarers book? Are you planning on reading this standalone follow-up? Let us know your thoughts.

a-closed-and-common-orbit-2 A Closed and Common Orbit

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for – and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers’ beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effectand Star Wars.

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Week 1: Friday 2nd December – Part 1 up to Page 94, hosted byLisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Friday 9th December – Page 95 to End of Part 1, hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Week 3: Friday 16th December – all of Part 2, hosted by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 4: Friday 23rd December – Part 3 to End, hosted by Mogsy at The BiblioSanctum


1. Sidra has quite the range of emotional (and physical!) crises this week. What do you make of the ways she tries to cope/adjust? Do you think she can come to terms with herself?

In many ways Sidra reminds me of a child on the cusp of her teenage years — a formative time when an individual starts to gain a lot more independence, and naturally this leads to a lot of self-exploration and, for better or worse, the testing of limits. She’s still seeing the world through an innocent and naive lens and I think many of her “ways of coping” can easily backfire on her, as we’ve seen. Like all teenagers though, I think Sidra will find her way eventually.

2. How would you choose what memories to delete to save new ones? Is Pepper being sensible or is it an impossible thing to ask?

I was wondering this myself as I was reading this part. Was it fair of Pepper to demand Sidra just “be pickier” about the knowledge she wants to download and retain? A part of me wants to tell Sidra to suck it up; this is her new reality now. My own memory is like a sieve and I even joke to friends that my brain is like a hard drive, and I have to dump old stuff to remember new things. If Sidra wants to pass for human, she’ll have to deal with the mind’s biological limitations the same  we all do.

On the other hand, Sidra’s counter argument is valid too. Despite my joke comparing my brain to a hard drive, humans are not like computers and memories aren’t stored or retrieved the same way. In people, certain memories might seem long forgotten only to be dredged up from the recesses of our mind by a random smell or some other kind of stimulus, because our brains are wired form those sorts of associations. However, Sidra isn’t capable of those kinds of processes, so once a “chunk” of memory is gone, it is gone forever. When put that way…yeah, that does kind of suck.

Pepper and Sidra are simply going to have to meet each other halfway, I suppose.

3. What are your first impressions of Owl?

She has a very “motherly” presence. I wasn’t surprised when I found out that she was an A.I. built for the space shuttle equivalent of a family recreational vehicle. That her previous masters got rid of the shuttle Owl was housed in only after their kids all grew up implies that a huge part of her system protocol is to be good with children, perhaps serving as an on-board nanny or teacher on top of running the ship’s processes. That would explain her seemingly unlimited patience and kindness.

4. There are lots of big big themes being unpacked as we get to the end of the first part. Which one(s) stand out for you? (How) Is it explored through each timeline?

This week we saw clear parallels between Sidra and Jane’s stories. The big theme here for me was the process of learning. I doubt it’s an accident that in the past, Jane (human) learns the ways of the world from Owl (A.I.) while in the present, Sidra (A.I.) learns the ways of the world from Pepper (human). I like how the two storylines mirror each other and how for Jane/Pepper’s character, things come full circle.

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6 Comments on “Week 2: A Closed and Common Orbit Read-Along”

  1. I skimmed over this since I have yet to start Orbit but once I’ve read it I’ll have to remember to come back and see what you all thought of it. 🙂 Fun book to read-a long I would think! Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Closed and Common Orbit (week 2): the art of being human – x+1

  3. I love your last answer about the two storylines mirroring like that. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but it’s a really interesting way to look at it! Very poetic, which I think is a marvellous thing to be able to say about a science fiction novel.


  4. I love the theme of paying it forward – Pepper is really explicit about it up front, but it’s fascinating delving into the detail of what that means and where it comes from. I think you’re spot on about Sidra testing limits too; I hadn’t really seen it that way, but now that makes me look at her decision to get a tattoo in a slightly different light 🙂


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