Sidra used to be Lovelace, a shipboard AI, but she has left her ship and is now in a body that looks human. She is trying to fit in to society as her kit is illegal and discovery could mean that it is shut down with her in it, and prison for her friends.
Jane 23 is a ten year old fixer. She lives with the Mothers and all the other Janes, and their job is to sort through the endless scrap that passes through their factory. One day an explosion rips a hole in Jane 23’s world and nothing will ever be the same again.
As with most of the books I review, this was provided for free by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. In the interests of full disclosure I loved Chambers’ first book in this series A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. When I spotted this on Netgalley and was then approved for it I couldn’t believe my luck.
This book is UH-MAY-ZING. While it is the second in the series you don’t need to have read Small Angry Planet in order for it to make sense.
I think it is the book that I was hoping Ancillary Justice would be when I attempted to read it earlier this year (I didn’t get far – it bored me rigid). How would an intelligence that is used to inhabiting a ship cope with inhabiting a body? How do you hide in plain site when you can’t relate to the body you inhabit as being you?
One of the things I love about Chambers’ writing is the way her characters come off the page at you. They are fully formed, and have their own opinions, wants and needs. Her attention to detail with the rituals and lifecycles of the various species as well as their different ways of looking at life are exactly what I want in my sci-fi. I feel as though Chambers has created her multiverse (like Pratchett did with Discworld) and is now populating it with great characters. Make no mistake, these books are character driven. Sure, some things go bang, but only to advance the plot.
Add some social commentary about what it is to be a person, the difficulties of “fitting in” and of the importance of finding who you are, why people are horrible to each other and the importance of family and you have a wonderful, engaging read.
A Closed and Common Orbit is out on October 20. Read Small Angry Planet again in the meantime – you know you want to.
5 out of 5 distant planets.