Many of the things I praised Becky Chambers for in Long Way are not present in this book; here she doesn’t make space feel so wide open and dangerous and beautiful, but instead makes cities and planets feel small and special and homey. Similarly, she doesn’t spread her attention equally among a cast of characters as she so expertly did in her first book, but keeps us near to two women whose paired stories illuminate the universe held within Closed and Common. This isn’t to say that this sequel showcased none of the same qualities as the first. As in Long Way, Closed and Common features a diverse cast of alien characters and as before Chambers wastes little time in the clumsy or drawn-out introductions that so often plague science fiction stories. She makes them clear to us, at once thoroughly understandable and completely alien. And as in book #1, Chambers mixes lighthearted humor with dread and fear and heartbreak and all manner of loves, so that her book is as thrilling and entertaining and emotionally restorative as it is illuminating.
If I’m being dramatic (as I so often am about science fiction) this book is proof that the kind of science fiction that serves to examine what it is to be human is alive, is well, is thriving. It would not be exaggerating to say that in reading Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit I came to a better understanding of myself and the place I choose for myself in society. I literally stopped and took notes – not for this review but for myself, for later, for living.