A Closed and Common Orbit (CBR11 #18)

In early April I made the choice to put my limited free time (so, so limited in late March and early April) into a complete rewatch of Game of Thrones before the series came back for its final series. I also picked up and put down two different books earlier this month, just not feeling any of them. When it was time to travel for Easter, with a total of four flights, I reached for a sure-fire winner: A Closed and Common Orbit.

I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet last summer and was excited to see what else Becky Chambers had waiting in her universe. I wasn’t disappointed, but I did have a bit of a struggle settling in to this new story. The first book was set within one ship with one small but diverse crew. A Closed and Common Orbit is an even smaller story, structurally. We are primarily with just two characters, and they hand the narrative back and forth. I had a tough time sinking into one character’s half of the story for the first third or so.

From Goodreads:

“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.”

As Lovelace learns to navigate the body she is in following the events of the previous book (which you do not have to have read to read this one, but I suggest it anyway) she forms a new identity to go with it, and renames herself Sidra with Pepper’s blessing. I struggled with early story Sidra because she is struggling so much with the limitations of her body. As the story continues and we get more of Pepper’s background and personal history, and the story of Jane 23 unravels I found my footing in the overall story – Chambers is using hard sci-fi to have a discussion about identity, sure, but also personhood writ large.

Emmalita sold this series to me (and everyone else) as “cozy sci-fi” and that is such an accurate description. There is plot happening, and the world of Port Coriol is explored, but we are really digging into Sidra, Pepper, Blue, Owl, and Tak. Once it got going it did the thing that all really great books can do, it made me cry on public transport (I startled my seatmate on the plane).

I’m so looking forward to the next book in the series.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

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American Like Me (CBR11 #17)

Badkittyuno reviewed this one and I immediately put it on my to read, and then picked it up at my first chance from Audible. American Like Me is a collection of 32 stories about what being American, whether they call themselves American enthusiastically, reluctantly, or not at all. Some of the authors have written previously, others have not, but America Ferrera gathered a wide variety of voices to capture a breadth of experiences. This book is full of the stories about life between cultures. The authors are actors, athletes, politicians, and artists. They are also immigrants themselves or the children and grandchildren of immigrants, indigenous people, regardless they are people who grew up with personal connections to more than one culture.

I listened to this quickly, and then reviewed it slowly – I suggest you do the opposite. There is a lot of similarity amongst the stories, not in tone or delivery but in their hearts, and for me some stories blurred together because of it. There were a few stand-outs, that I remember now a month later: Issa Rae and Randall Park especially. They bring both a personal warmth and their natural comedic natures to their chapters, but they also dig deeply into their personal stories even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way at first glance. Park in particular approaches his in such a light-hearted manner that its more serious undertones take time develop.

The most important part for me in this was that each story had some component that rang true to my own lived experience, my own times along the boundaries of what make me American, and it is always going to come back to the variety of components that make up this life.  

This book was read and (eventually) reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.