Becky Chambers introduced the world of the Wayfarer, a long-haul spaceship, in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. The story of some of the characters from that novel continues in A Closed and Common Orbit. We don't see or hear from the Wayfarer in this second installment. Pepper, a friend of the Wayfarer's crew, returns, along with Lovey, the Wayfarer's ship AI who is embarking on a new life in a body.
The story jumps back and forth between Pepper's childhood and Lovey's acclimating to her body. Pepper escaped from a labor camp and spent her formative years being taught and cared for by the AI in an abandoned ship. I enjoyed the parallels of the two lives, a ship AI learning to live in a body, and another ship AI teaching a body how to live.
I kept wondering how these parallel threads would converge, and when they finally did, it made perfect sense. As in The Long Way, Chambers spends a lot of time developing the alien species and cultures. A Closed and Common Orbit has stronger emphasis on the story, as we see these two characters develop. The scope of Common Orbit is smaller than that of The Long Way. I think that helps Chambers tell a better story. She also leaves me wanting to read more of her stories and to learn more about the Wayfarer and Pepper and Lovey's futures. I hope Chambers continues this series.