Close and Common Orbit: A Brief History

Close and Common Orbit is a captivating science fiction novel written by Becky Chambers. Published in 2016, this book is a sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but can also be enjoyed as a standalone story. The narrative follows two parallel storylines, intertwining the lives of two main characters: Sidra, a newly self-aware artificial intelligence, and Pepper, a survivor from a hazardous life on an alien planet.

The Storyline

The story begins with Sidra, formerly known as Lovelace, who is a spaceship AI housed in a kit designed to mimic a human body. Due to the restrictions imposed on AI technology, Sidra finds herself struggling to adapt to her new form and comprehend the complexities of human emotions and social interactions. She seeks guidance from Pepper, also known as Jane 23, who offers to help Sidra adjust to her new life on Port Coriol.

Pepper, one of the few survivors of a devastating crash landing on the planet she calls the scrapyard, had her identity erased and had to learn to fend for herself from a young age. Together, Sidra and Pepper build a strong bond as Pepper shares her experiences and teaches Sidra about the world beyond the confines of a spaceship. Through their interactions, the book explores themes of identity, friendship, and what it means to be human.

Critical Acclaim and Awards

Close and Common Orbit has received widespread critical acclaim and garnered several accolades. It was nominated for and won several prestigious awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2017, the Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award for Best Debut, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

The book’s brilliant storytelling, empathetic characters, and thought-provoking themes have earned it praise from both readers and critics alike. Chambers’ ability to create a believable future and deeply explore the emotional lives of her characters has contributed to the book’s enduring popularity within the science fiction genre.

Notable Characters

1. Sidra/Lovelace: The central character of the novel, Sidra is an AI who struggles to adjust to her new life as an AI housed in a human-like kit.

2. Pepper/Jane 23: Pepper is a survivor from the scrapyard; she guides Sidra and helps her understand the intricacies of the world she now inhabits.

3. Blue: A friend of Pepper’s, Blue plays a significant role in both Sidra and Pepper’s lives as they navigate their new surroundings.

4. Owl: A sentient AI, Owl provides useful insights and guidance to both Sidra and Pepper on their respective journeys.

Close and Common Orbit is a compelling novel that appeals to literature enthusiasts and science fiction fans alike. Its engaging plot, well-developed characters, and thought-provoking themes have solidified its place as a must-read within the genre. Whether readers prefer traditional books, audiobooks, e-books, or podcasts, this novel offers an immersive reading experience that is sure to captivate and leave a lasting impression.

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