A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Release Date: June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.
Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.
I am in love with this series.
It breaks boundaries. It tells the stories of humans through fictional species and humans occupying the same space (haha) as said fictional species. It breaks down the fundamentals of being human from the perspective of aliens, said fundamentals that people still don’t comprehend as being part of culture and our surroundings rather than ‘biology’ or ‘the right way’. One of the things it does in particular and so perfectly is the understanding of human gender and it’s sociological construction. There are hundreds, if not thousands of alien species in this fictional universe, and many that have genders and all are so different and varied from each other that it helps to understand how human gender and biological sex works, and how many of the aspects of them are just made up.
There’s a species that are all born female, until they become male in their old age. There’s a species with three sexes; male, female, and shon, whereby they routinely change their biological sex depending on the time of year.
And across these species, each also have their own societal constructs that may or may not determine a gender, if they even have them. For example, a shon’s only change is their body parts, but their likes, dislikes, and their appearance remain the same. And it begs a lot of questions about how we may treat fellow species when and if we see them in our life time. Would we greet them with kindness? With hostility? I’m always the pessimist, and I believe that because we can barely settle our differences here on Earth, I highly doubt we’d begin to understand the different concepts and societies of another alien race. We’re still such a primitive race that we cannot understand a different way of life on the other side of the Earth to us. Imagine a whole other race that could comprehend not only race, gender, sexuality, speech, emotion, reproduction, religion etc differently, but time, space, dimensions, light, sound etc differently?? We just have tiny human minds, is what I’m saying.
I would definitely read this series if you’re looking for a story that shows the possibility of humanity living peacefully with fellow species, with creative and imaginative off-Earth communities filled with every colour and creed of the universe as we know it.