As a standalone sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit did well to outline the setting. I think new readers would be able to understand things just fine. At the same time, it further expanded the world building for those who’ve read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. The characters remained central to the plot of A Closed and Common Orbit as well, thereby justifying the slow pacing.
My problem with space operas is that usually not much happens besides the characters floating through space. On that front, I felt The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet fit squarely fit that trope. Conflicts outside of the spaceship didn’t arise as often nor as intensely as I had liked, even with their unpredictable mission and the threat of war looming. The reason I enjoyed this book anyway were the characters. They were absolutely wonderful!