When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
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5 / 5
This is a combined review of Becky Chamber’s “the long way to a small angry planet” and “a closed and common orbit”; they are both beautiful, charming, well-written and unique space operas. They also have covers that are to die for! I don’t read as much sci-fi as I used to, but these books pulled me straight back in and are exactly the kind of read that I adore.
The first thing I must massively applaud Becky Chambers on is her titles! Wayfarers! The long way to a small angry planet! A closed and common orbit! Record of a spaceborn few! I love them all like the children I don’t have. The reading experience is best described as if you are having a comforting hug: the writing flows, the emotions can run high and vibrant, but everything has this sort of cozy feel, like everything is good and safe and right. somewhat akin to having a nice cozy, fluffy hug. They’re definitely character driven novels; whilst there is a reasonable amount of plot going on, it certainly isn’t an action-heavy book so I probably wouldn’t recommend them to you if you purely like inter-planetary wars and explosions.
“I can wait for the galaxy outside to get a little kinder.”
In the first novel, the long way to a small angry planet, we focus on a young woman, Rosemary Harper, who joins a rag-tag crew running an intergalactic ship. And boy are the characters wonderful – a particular highlight is an inter-species relationship between Rosemary and her crew mate, Sissix, which I thought was beautifully explored. Sissix was definitively my favourite character. Then there’s the AI system, Lovelace, who gets a rather weird plotline but who definitely grew on me. The plot focuses on a mission the Wayfarer is given: to drill a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet, whilst war rages on around them.
A closed and common orbit picks up the story of Pepper, a spunky mechanic who grew up as a clone, and Lovelace, the AI. Lovelace has been illegally installed into a body kit and now she has to blend in with the other sapients on Port Coriol, learning to adapt to her new body, so uncomfortable and so unlike a ship, and to go undetected. Pepper takes Lovelace, who takes on the name Sidra to help differentiate herself from Lovey, the AI who was loved and wanted, into her home and shop in order to repay a dept of a lifetime. Pepper, you see, was raised by an AI onboard a shuttle and now it’s time to raise an AI in return.
“We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.”
The second novel replaces space and voyages and ships with AI and coding and planet-side life, but it’s just as thoughtful and complex and lovely as the first book. I cannot wait for the last book in the trilogy, record of a spaceborn few, which focuses on humans who have roved space for hundreds of years, but have finally reached their destination.