British Fiction Focus

Little Lost Linkings: Revealing A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Given how many wonderful works of science fiction have been released in the last year, suggesting a shortlist of just six for the upcoming Arthur C. Clarke Awards was a silly difficult thing to do, but there was no doubt in my mind that A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet would make the cut. When I reviewed it right here in 2015, I described Becky Chambers’ debut as “a delight” which smashed “the groundbreaking, breathtaking science fiction of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch saga against the salty space opera of The Expanse,” and the more time that’s passed, the more lovingly I’ve looked back at it.

I wasn’t aware, yesterday, that A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was about to be longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction alongside books by luminaries like Anne Enright and Kate Atkinson, but I could hardly be happier that it has. As sure as night follows day, the same goes for Chambers, but being on a break from Twitter—the better to complete “a companion novel” called A Closed and Common Orbit—the author had to hear the good news from her mum.

Whether A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet makes the final shortlist or not, it really is incredible to see it recognised in the same breath as bestselling efforts “by some of the most garlanded names writing today,” as The Guardian has it.

Chambers’ publisher Hodder was, likewise, delighted, and took the opportunity to pull back the curtain on A Closed and Common Orbit, including its cover art—which you’ll note ties in quite nicely to the text preceding this stand-alone sequel of sorts:


Editor Anne Perry also shared a sneak peek at the first chapter. Be warned that it’s a bit on the spoilery side, if you haven’t read A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet—and if you haven’t, you know what I’m going to suggest you do, don’t you?

Lovelace had been in a body for twenty-eight minutes, and it still felt every bit as wrong as it had the second she woke up inside it. […] Twenty-nine minutes before, she’d been housed in a ship, as she was designed to be. She’d had cameras in every corner, voxes in every room. She’d existed in a web, with eyes both within and outside. A solid sphere of unblinking perception.

But now. Her vision was a cone, a narrow cone fixed straight ahead, with nothing—actual nothing—beyond its edges. Gravity was no longer something that happened within her, generated by artigrav nets in the floor panels, nor did it exist in the space around her, a gentle ambient folding around the ship’s outer hull. Now it was a myopic glue, something that stuck her feet to the floor and her legs to the seat above it.

And the Linkings were gone. That was the worst part. Before, she could reach out and find any information she wanted, any feed or file or download hub, all while carrying on conversations and monitoring the ship’s functions. She still had the capability to do so—the body kit had not altered her cognitive abilities, after all—but her connection to the Linkings had been severed. She could access no knowledge except that which was stored inside a housing that held nothing but herself. She felt blind, stunted. She was trapped in this thing.

For loads more, check out the whole of the sneak peek on the Hodderscape blog.

Last but not least, the surely-swelling ranks of Chambers’ readers will be pleased to hear that A Closed and Common Orbit is to be released later this year, on October 20.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.


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