Week 4: 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. At the end of the last segment, we got to meet Laurian but this week we got to know him better in Jane’s sections and learn how he factors into these flashbacks. What do you think of his and Jane’s relationship and how has it impacted your understanding of the bond between Pepper and Blue?

Blue had always been a character on the periphery and while it was clear that he and Pepper were very important to each other, I never truly understood why until it was revealed how the two of them first met and what they had gone through together. I really enjoyed the sections that showed how Jane and Laurian had each others’ backs, especially when she realized that he was just as protective of her as she was of him. The story of Pepper and Blue is another example of how two lost souls can forge their own family and I thought it was very sweet.

2. In this section, we saw how Jane finally made it to the GC. Sidra, in her storyline, also makes headway in freeing herself from her programming and has developed a new kind of relationship with the kit. In a way, both of them managed to accomplish what they set out to do, but what do you think they each made of their results?

Jane had the less favorable experience, I think. After escaping from her wasteland planet, she was filled with hope and excitement for a new life…only to have that optimism ripped away from her when she realized the galaxy at large is complicated web of regulations and politics. Losing her ship (and by extension Owl) to a lousy rule was probably the the most traumatic blow to her dream of achieving freedom and control over her own destiny. I’m glad that she was later able to meet good people to disprove the idea that the GC is only full of uncaring, patronizing bureaucrats though.

Sidra, on the other hand, clearly had the better of it. I found it interesting how after going back to briefly “inhabiting” a ship, she started missing being in her kit. And speaking of which, following that scene, I actually noticed that she no longer referred to her body as “the kit” anymore.

3. When the seeds of Sidra’s plan started to form, what were your thoughts? Did you have any concerns about what she might do and how things might end?

I’ll admit, I got nervous for a second! A part of me was filled with dread, thinking, “Oh no, not again, Becky Chambers, please don’t let Sidra sacrifice herself for Owl.” I mean, I love Owl, and it would be the noblest thing of Sidra to do with her newfound sense of purpose and free will, but I won’t deny it would have been a huge downer for me if her entire journey were to come to an end like that. And after the way the first book ended, we all know how Chambers is with her bittersweet conclusions. Even though I was pretty sure we were going to get a happy ending, I still couldn’t help it; a part of me was always braced for the other shoe to drop.

4. What did you make of Sidra’s comments on the nature of “Purpose”? How well do you think her views match with the examples we’ve seen so far in the story?

I think Sidra was greatly simplifying things, but at the same time I would agree with the generalities of her statement. Obviously, the notion of having purpose will be different for an A.I. versus a biological sentient being, i.e. for the former it might be determined by a few lines of code, while the latter has much more freedom in determining their own “purpose”. Still, I think Sidra’s point is that everyone needs something to live for, or it can become easy to lose your way. We saw how Lovelace/Sidra and Jane/Pepper came into this world as creations, meant to serve a purpose they did not choose. However, we also saw how both characters became unsettled and adrift once they were freed from their respective constraints, at least until they were able to chart a new course.

5. What did you think of the ending, and/or any closing thoughts?

I’m so glad in general that we got a happy ending. And I loved getting Owl’s perspective in the last chapter. How awesome is it that in the end, the two A.I.s decided to get together and open up a bar? Something about that just strikes me as so random and yet appropriate at the same time. This was a “feel-good” book through and through, and I ended it with a big smile on my face.

8 Comments on “Week 4: A Closed and Common Orbit Read-Along”

  1. ‘The story of Pepper and Blue is another example of how two lost souls can forge their own family and I thought it was very sweet’ – I also really liked the moment when Pepper realised that Blue also cared for her.
    I hadn’t picked that part up about Sidra no longer referring to her body as the ‘kit’ – great point. I was thinking to myself that I wished she would stop. That’s like us thinking about ourselves as a brain inhabiting a ‘body’ isn’t it. I guess it goes to show the difficulty Sidra was having in adapting to not being part of a ‘ship’ so it was great when she suddenly realised that being in her ‘kit’ allowed her to be a part of things in a whole new way.
    I hadn’t even thought of Sidra ‘sacrificing’ herself – thank goodness! I was wracking my brain trying to wonder how she could remove Owl safely – I wondered if she would try to use the kit but I didn’t see how she could do so.
    Definitely a ‘feel good’ book. My favourite of the two undoubtedly. I just enjoyed the storyline with the flashbacks and that way that Jane and Sidra’s stories shared so many parallels.
    Lynn 😀


  2. Pingback: A Closed and Common Orbit (week 4): if it’s not alright, it’s not the end – x+1

  3. Ooh I can participate now that I’ve finished the book. lol Re: #2 you make a great point- I really liked when Sidra finally got to be back in a ship and then realized she liked her “kit” housing. That felt earned given everything else she went through up to that point. One of the more emotional moments too for me in this one. And it was tough to see Jane make it only to lose Owl.

    Great comments on purpose too- I agree. And the ending- a bar! I love the idea of Sidra and Owl coexisting- after what happened to Lovey last time I was really hoping for a good ending, and Chambers delivered.


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