SF/F Read Alongs: A Closed and Common Orbit, Part 3


In the third part of A Closed and Common Orbit, certain breakthroughs are fought for – and achieved. Meanwhile, we get to explore the ups and downs of socialising and building relationships…

Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is our host this week, as we cover Part 2 of the book. Spoilers below!


So, the opening chapters brought us an apology from Tak to Sidra following the tattoo debacle. What were your thoughts on that particular scene?

I loved this scene because it was clear that Tak is a decent enough person to want to correct what she feels was a mistake in the way she’d treated Sidra, and to be considerate in how she goes about doing that. Also because we were shown that while Sidra understands that Tak’s wary reaction made sense, it still bothers her. Her behaviour after the tattoo incident makes perfect sense, and yet it’s somehow more striking because it’s entirely human, and Sidra is not. This is what brings Tak around again: her wariness is perfectly understandable, and I wouldn’t have blamed her one bit if that had been the end of their friendship – but beyond this, she’s still curious, and she obviously cares enough to regret the way she reacted.

The prejudice that’s shown against AIs here is interesting because it’s the quiet kind; as Tak admits, if Sidra wasn’t housed in a body kit – if she didn’t appear to be human – they might not have gotten to this point, because the idea of being genuine friends with an AI would not have occurred to her in the first place. Maybe nobody’s lighting torches and waving pitchforks over the integration of AIs into everyday life, but that very integration is sort of insidious in this light because, as Sidra wonders at an earlier point in the book, how are we to know how sentient they are if it never even occurs to us that they might be? But it did occur to Tak, and her effort to make amends by seeking better understanding sets a wonderful example for relationships in general.


The stories between Jane and Sidra have a certain symmetry and this week’s was no exception as we watched the pair of them almost go through a period akin to puberty. Did any of their particular experiences bring back fond, or not so fond, memories for you?

Oooof. Definitely not so fond! I’ve come out of my shell, significantly if not entirely, in recent years – but I’m thirty-three, and getting there took a long time and was definitely not easy for me. My teenage years … those are best left buried, I suspect!

In short, though, I understand on an almost painfully personal level how hard it can be to understand people, much less relate to them, and that it’s made even harder when you’re struggling to understand yourself and your own body. So a lot of what Jane and Sidra go through, not just in these chapters but in the book as a whole, really hits home for me.



I love the two separate storylines going on here and though Jane and Sidra share some common ground I think their stories both have something different to say. What are your thoughts on that?

It does strike me that Jane’s story is rooted in her desire to put distance between herself and everything she ran from. As Pepper, she has removed herself as far as she can from the world she came from, and those who brought her into it. In a sense Sidra is doing the same thing, but her struggle comes from trying to embrace who and what she is and find balance, whereas Pepper has perhaps done her best to simply excise her roots. Everything she’s become, and everything about herself that she embraces, came to be only after she left the factory behind. Sidra doesn’t have the luxury of doing that because at that level, she lacks the fundamental independence of thought and action that humans have; she literally relies on someone else, at least in part, to make such changes. I think this is what prevents them from fully understanding one another; Sidra can’t simply alter her own code on her own (what a metaphor that is!), and Pepper doesn’t seem quite capable of grasping the fact that such a rootless way of living isn’t possible for her. I suspect that Pepper has placed so much importance on that for herself that she can’t see past it in this sense.


I’m curious about the Enhanced. We haven’t really spent a lot of time with them but I still think we can draw some conclusions. Is there any aspect of the Enhanced and the planet on which they live that really caught your attention?

To be honest I haven’t thought much about them at all with everything that’s going on in this book! I think they pretty much belong in the background at this point because they’re tangential to this story at best; they had a purpose initially but the people they might be relevant to here have much bigger concerns now. Maybe they will turn up again in the next book (there will be a third, apparently!)? Though how and why, and what sort of story any of them might tell, is entirely open to speculation at this point. Not that any of us have anything against a bit of speculation, however…


At the end of the chapters we have a couple of new developments. Sidra has managed to alter the protocols that compel her to speak the truth and the spaceship that Jane escaped in has been uncovered. Do you have any predictions how either of these might affect what is yet to come?

Technically no, because I’ve already read this book once! So I think I’ll pass on answering this one and settle for seeing what others have to say… *Grin*







4 thoughts on “SF/F Read Alongs: A Closed and Common Orbit, Part 3

  1. There’s so much to analyse and unpack in this book that I think I need to give it a reread! Suffice to say I really enjoyed it, particularly for the focus on the complexity of what makes us human, and the relationships that cross borders and boundaries. Great Q&As!

  2. Ah, metaphors. There’s a lot in this book, and they punch me right in the feelings time after time.

    I see Pepper as someone who has embraced who they are and where they’re from, and moved on. Not left it behind entirely – she still sorts scrap for a living, so her early childhood still defines her (although: “I don’t care about your task. That should never have been the most important thing” gives me the lie, I guess?)

    I wonder whether the misunderstanding/tension comes from the fact that she *has* moved on and changed – she can’t understand why Sidra doesn’t just deal with the circumstances and move on like she did. I’m not sure she recognises just how much Sidra’s code hampers her – right back to the bit about tasks; Sidra is literally defined by her task, and being cut off from it isn’t liberating for her.

    1. Yes! I had some trouble articulating what I wanted to say here, but that’s basically the difference in viewpoints that I’ve been picking up on. Constraints, boundaries, rules: these are all things that provide Sidra with some comfort. Perhaps a little too much, given that she tries to retreat within them when she’s facing her first real social difficulty after the tattoo incident – but this strikes me as being the opposite of the way Pepper lives her life, in a way, given how many constraints and rules she had to conform to as a child. It’s a psychological knot that needs some delicate picking to untangle, where both are concerned – but I love the story for throwing it at us. 😀

      1. All the metaphors: Jane spent her childhood escaping from walls, and being bounded is the only Sidra can relax.

        Pepper: Just chill, lady.
        Sidra: I don’t even what that means.

        My heart, it hurts. But in a good way.

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