Becky Chambers “A Closed and Common Orbit”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is very topical nowadays. It’s one of the fastest evolving issues of today’s technology. We’re eager to learn what changes it will bring along in the future when autonomous robots capable of human feelings and thinking will become a part of our lives. However, as THE future hasn’t arrived yet, the only thing for us to do now is to fantasize and read sci-fi novels. One of the best on-topic choices here is A Closed and Common Orbit by the American writer Becky Chambers.

The story centers around the AI Lovelace ‘transplanted’ into a human female robot body from a space shuttle and having acquired a new name – Sidra. Sidra doesn’t feel comfortable in the human-like body – the shrunken field of vision, the absence of the spaceship walls that must border her monitoring processes and the impossibility to connect to Linkings (Internet equivalent) at all times irritate her. Besides, she feels out of place in the human society because of some features of her code – the honesty protocol makes it impossible for her to say anything but the truth, answer direct questions and fulfill direct orders. This physical and mental restlessness also causes problems for her friends and caretakers Pepper and Blue. It’s interesting that the story about the AI doesn’t imply the fear of robots taking over the world, but contemplates the questions of integration and adaptation, which is a topical issue in our today’s multicultured human society as well.

However, the most interesting character in the novel is certainly the protagonist Pepper, the technician who takes care of Sidra and has a very remarkable story of her own. Pepper, previously Jane 23, was once one of the multiple clones working as a slave at a tech scrap sorting factory. By the age of 10, she had never seen the outside world. The accidental explosion at the factory gives the girl a chance to run away. She takes refuge at a broken space shuttle at the scrap yard. The ship’s AI Owl educates her and gives her real motherly love. From there begins a very thrilling, touching and at times funny story of the girl growing up, surmounting troubles, problems and overcoming almost hopeless situations to repair the spaceship and to get out of the tech scrap planet.

All in all, if you like sci-fi, you’ll most probably enjoy the novel A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. If you are fascinated by strong characters who never give up, then this story is a very good choice. If you want to be thrilled and entertained, this book is for you!


Hodder, 2017

Check from the e-catalogue ESTER

Elena Kopylova
Kännukuke branch library

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