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The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson - Book Review

Write on: Mon, 03 Aug 2020 by  in Natasha's Reviews Read 4427

"Of the 380 Earths with which we can resonate, I’m dead in 372."

The CEO of Eldridge Institute, Adam Bosch, has invented a way to travel the multiverse, but one can only enter another world if their doppelgänger there is dead. Thus, Eldridge has been forced to hire travelers whose perilous lives have given them a very slim chance of surviving. Cara was born to an addict mother outside Wiley City where a tyrannical warlord and his Runner gang rule. Now, due to her skill at dying, she has the chance to work as a traveler, become a Wiley City citizen, and turn her life around. But when another one of her counterparts dies and she travels to Earth 175 for the first time, she is thrust back into the life she managed to escape and discovers a secret that endangers the entire multiverse.

“The multiverse isn’t just parallel universes accessible thorough science. They are in each of us, a kaleidoscope made of varying perceptions.”

Despite the focus on multiverse theory, this is not a hard sci-fi novel. The science is never explained and exists simply as a backdrop to allow the author to explore themes of death, poverty, and trauma through alternate realities. The story is gritty, dark, and reflective and not likely to provide the escapism that many look for in science fiction. I’m not trying to put you off of reading this novel—I, for one, absolutely loved it—but just want to let you know what you’re getting into.

“Even worthless things can become valuable once they become rare. This is the grand lesson of my life.”

Cara is our protagonist and singular point of view. She’s been through a lot of trauma and abuse which has resulted in a pessimistic view of the world. The knowledge that she was almost always destined to die young takes a hard toll on her, yet she takes satisfaction in the fact that she has survived to see things the universe never met for her to see. Her compelling self-exploration serves as the backbone of this meaningful story.

“He’s a Wileyite trying to pass as something else, and I can’t quite figure out why. Doesn’t he know we still die for not being what he is?”

As all good sci-fi, even soft sci-fi, The Space Between Worlds packs in a great deal of social commentary. Cara’s world is split by the wall of Wiley City. On one side, citizens are perfectly protected from hunger, violence, and even bad weather. On the other, life is a constant struggle under the unforgiving sun and the whims of a powerful tyrant. Cara must fight against classism and racism to make room for herself on the safe side of the wall, and as much as she might want to forget where she came from, she will never be satisfied by simply erasing her roots in order to fit into her life as a Wiley City socialite.

“Why are we, who are so unhappy, fixated on long lives? What is the point? An easy life isn’t blessing. Easy doesn’t mean happy. Alive doesn’t mean anything at all.”

The Space Between Worlds is a novel that will be staying with me for a long time. It delivers incredible character exploration and development, superb worldbuilding, and a strong plot with several startling twists and a surprising villain. There’s also a great deal of diversity with a Black bisexual main character, nonbinary side characters, and F/F romance. If you’re interested in a personal and gritty soft sci-fi standalone, please pick this one up as soon as you can. It will be published August 4th, 2020.

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected ARC and may not reflect the finished work.

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 August 2020 19:35
Natasha

Natasha's passion for reading was kindled by her parents and the local library that allowed her family to checkout 50 books at a time. She first fell in love with fantasy through Arthurian retellings whereas her love for science fiction began with Star Wars novels. Nowadays, she still spends her free time reading but also gaming, running a blog (natrosette), and obsessing over TV shows. Maybe if she spent as much time reading as she does looking for books to read, she'd actually make a dent in her TBR.