Author: Becky Chambers
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
I simply adore this series. Chambers manages that precarious balance of weighty, existential topics (like sapience, purpose, survival, belonging) with a wholesomeness that is neither childish nor cloying. Even where characters might fit into well-worn tropes, she gives them depth and individuality. The entire book just feels good-natured in a way that is hard to find without feeling like you're being patronized.
While the first book in the series (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) took place on a tunneling ship, the Wayfarer, this second book takes place mostly on Port Coriol. The link between the books is the Wayfarer's former AI, Lovelace (better known as Lovey). If you haven't read the first book stop right there because the next bit will spoil the ending.
Anyway, at the end of the first book, Lovey had sustained major damage and the only way to perhaps restore her was a hard shutdown, with a 50/50 chance she would return to her Lovey personality as opposed to starting over from scratch. Sadly for the entire crew, she reverted to Lovelace. At the end of that book, friend of the crew Pepper (a skilled tech) had offered Lovelace the opportunity of entering into a body kit (highly illegal), and the chance to leave the crew who were mourning the loss of Lovey. Lovelace accepted and this novel explores her attempt to live in a body and find purpose beyond her specs.
This rebirth and self-discovery finds a very effective and heart-wrenching counterpoint in alternating chapters that explore Pepper's background. We got hints of this in the first book in the series--we know she was some kind of designed human, meant to fulfill very specific tasks and not to deviate, and that she endured a harrowing trip to escape her fate. Here her history is elaborated with poignant detail and, over time, we come to realize why Pepper was so determined to give Lovelace a chance at another life.
The highest compliment I can give this book is that, despite loving the first book and being anxious to hear what happens next with the Wayfarer's crew, it took me less than a chapter to be entirely absorbed and not at all resentful that the Wayfarer plays no meaningful role in this novel. Highly recommended and waiting anxiously for the next entry in the series.
(For Shana's review of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, Book 1), click here.)
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...