A Closed and Common Orbit (week 4): if it’s not alright, it’s not the end

A Closed and Common Orbit Read-along

It’s the final week of the @SFFreadalong of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, so ‘ware major spoilers for the finale! This week we’re hosted by Mogsy from The Bibliosanctum as we reach a new crisis point that will test Sidra and Pepper’s loyalties and their commitment. Will it be a happy ending?

1) At the end of the last segment, we got to meet Laurian but this week we got to know him better in Jane’s sections and learn how he factors into these flashbacks. What do you think of his and Jane’s relationship and how has it impacted your understanding of the bond between Pepper and Blue?

They have such a gentle bond. Jane never really got over losing her bunkmate; there was always a space that needed filling. I loved how she stood up to Owl about bringing him aboard, and the understated transition from resenting sharing her space to worrying that he might want to part ways. He’s fiercely loyal to her – but then, she rescued him from an awful life and gave him a future. I love that they’ve stayed together.


2) In this section, we saw how Jane finally made it to the GC. Sidra, in her storyline, also makes headway in freeing herself from her programming and has developed a new kind of relationship with the kit. In a way, both of them managed to accomplish what they set out to do, but what do you think they each made of their results?

I think in the end they’re both pretty happy with how things turned out. Jane’s first brush with the GC is even less positive than Sidra’s take on being trapped in the kit – and while she has Laurian to support her through it, he must have been nearly as lost and traumatised as she was; at least Sidra has Pepper to guide and protect her – but once they find a way to craft their lives on their own terms? It’s pretty special. I don’t get the sense that Pepper is at all dissatisfied with her life on Coriol, and I definitely end with the feeling that Sidra is delighted with her arrangements.


3) When the seeds of Sidra’s plan started to form, what were your thoughts? Did you have any concerns about what she might do and how things might end?

I had the advantage of having read it before; this time, I got to enjoy the elegance of how Becky Chambers concealed the fact that Sidra stowed away even though we were reading from her point of view. I will admit the climax felt much shorter second time around – the first time I was absolutely on the edge of my seat worrying about what would happen, especially when I realised what was at risk. After all, we’ve seen before what happens when you (re)install an AI…


4) What did you make of Sidra’s comments on the nature of “Purpose”? How well do you think her views match with the examples we’ve seen so far in the story?

As usual, Becky Chambers captures the human (or sentient) condition: we have no Purpose, but we feel like we ought to, so we search frantically until we find one. Sidra hasn’t found one, so she adopts one that will ‘do for now’ because it’s important to someone she cares about (I relate to all this so hard. I’ve never known what my Purpose is; I spend my life treading water with interim Purposes. And maybe that’s okay, after all).

Everything Owl did makes perfect sense once we discover her Purpose – an unavoidable instruction to a being who is hardwired to obey any direct command. Owl will be so good for Sidra; it is everything to me that she is happy to lose the hardwiring, but embraces her Purpose (and that final moment when she sends Sidra to give Pepper a hug and tell her she’s proud – MY EYES ARE LEAKING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT).


5) What did you think of the ending, and/or any closing thoughts?

I HAVE ALL THE FEELINGS. Big fuzzy messy capslock FEELINGS. There’s so much packed into this book – even the throwaway comments are often provocative (Sidra wondering if it’s less admirable if patience is built-in rather than learnt / practised; the briefly touched-on questions of privilege and influence). Common Orbit – for me – is about self-awareness and respecting others. Working in harmony, not against yourself / each other. Giving each other room to be ourselves rather than pushing one another down due to the expectations of privilege or prejudice. HELL YES. ❤


Take a tour of our responses this week:

  • Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
  • Mogsy at The BiblioSanctum
  • Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
  • Feel free to join in in the comments!

Links to our weekly discussions: