A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

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.

IMG_20170803_190032_576It 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.

 

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

Publisher: Corgi
Release Date: July 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Plot: No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

After talking to myself (and anyone else who would listen), I’ve figured out what I liked and what I disliked about this book.

Firstly, about 90% of the book I thoroughly enjoyed. It was slow moving, but it just meant that the story was rich in setting, tension, political intrigue and showed how slow the process of rule and politics can be. I loved the characters, how complicated they were and how evil they could become.

But, unfortunately, a lot of that has been relegated to the bench because of how disappointing the romance was. The fact that there was romance alone made it so unfortunate and unnecessary. Is that how back stories to evil characters are? Do they always have a romance that was a bit sad and rubbish and that’s what makes them awful? I liked that Lada was clearly evil and nasty to begin with, but for a potential villain to ‘not know her emotions’ when it came to a boy was honestly just so boring.

And the fact that Radu, sweet and lovely Radu, is friendzoned (I hate this phrase, but I was annoyed for him in this sense) throughout the book and it’s just accepted. It’s a common theme that unrequited love is just a thing that has to happen for some, for who, however, I won’t spoil. Maybe I am just a salty person when it comes to a character not getting the love they deserve? There were so many instances where Radu could have been happy, and he always just chose the wrong way, and it infuriated me how obsessed and blindly in love he was.

It may seem that I HATED 90% of the book, but I still stand by what I said at the beginning.

This book was well written and drawn out superbly, and I am intrigued to see what happens in the next, but it was also really annoying.

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