‘A Closed and Common Orbit’ – Review

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I absolutely loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and had high hopes for A Closed and Common Orbit. It didn’t exactly meet my expectations, but it was a nice read nonetheless.

img_2087Common Orbit picks up at the end of the previous book, following two minor characters: Pepper a human mechanic/tech genius, and Lovelace the Wayfarer’s AI in an illegal body posing as a person. Whilst Lovelace’s chapters are present day showing her adjusting to her new body and environment, Pepper’s show her past as a cloned child labourer who escapes and is raised by an AI in a scrapyard. The only problem is that that’s it. Small, Angry Planet had a number of different interwoven plots that created a tapestry of space ships, aliens, lesbians, and lesbian aliens (I had a clear favourite plot), but Common Orbit had none of that complexity.

Despite the slowness of the book it was a fun read at least. But that proved to be another problem for me. Chambers promised to explore clone slavery and AI ethics all in one book and somehow managed multiple chapters on tattoos but very little on ethics, and when the ethics were mentioned it wasn’t a subtle affair. I love a good discussion on robot ethics but I don’t enjoy having it wedged in amongst some awkward dialogue and dull plot.

I feel as though I’m complaining a lot about a book I finished and would have been fine if not for its predecessor being so impressive. Common Orbit falls so short of Small, Angry Planet, and knowing that Chambers could do better just made it all the worse.


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