Welcome to another post, today I’m sharing my spoiler-free thoughts on The Space Between Worlds, a character-driven sci-fi by Micaiah Johnson.
The Space Between Worlds
☆ 344 pages
☆ POC and LGBT+ rep
☆ Content warnings: domestic abuse (physical and emotional), violence, death, drug abuse
The Space Between Worlds centres around Cara, who works as a data-collecting multi-verse traverser for a company in Wiley, the sheltered, white elitist city neighbouring her old home Ashtown. Since traversers can only travel to the parallel worlds where they have died, Cara is lucky (?) enough to have died in 374 out of the 382 available. But when 1 of her 8 remaining doppelgangers die mysteriously, Cara becomes wrapped up in plans that endanger not only her world and identity, but also the whole multi-verse.
From the initial synopsis, I had predicted a sci-fi with a mystery element, but this book destroyed all of my expectations and gave me a book filled with exploration, social commentary and introspection.
If I figured anything out in these last six years, it is this: human beings are unknowable. You can never know a single person fully, not even yourself. even if you think you know yourself in your safe glass castle, you don’t know yourself in the dirt.
I think I’m discovering how much I like character-driven stories, because although there’s a strong plot and lots of action, Johnson balances this with Cara’s process of trauma and discovering her true self/selves. Cara constantly questions her morality and the similarities to other versions of herself: the sheltered but cruel rural girl, the savage city girl and her. Always the survivor. And to me, that’s what this story is truly about. A survivor of abuse and injustice. Cara faces racial classism, and the feeling of being an outsider everywhere. Is her home Wiley, the place she’s only a resident– not yet a citizen, and perhaps never will be in their eyes– or Ashtown, the place she has been trying to escape in all of her lives? The Space Between Worlds explores these themes extremely well and the ending was very satisfying for me, wrapping up all of these thoughts and conflicts.
Despite the thorough examination of many topics, the pacing is still fast and there wasn’t a moment I was bored, whether Cara was fighting, plotting or reflecting. I think there was enough explanation of Earth’s technology without info-dumping or leaving me utterly lost, so I’m grateful for that as a new sci-fi reader. And let me tell you about the twists. Very early on there’s a twist that I wasn’t expecting at all, but looking back I realised the subtle hints Johnson dropped. This continued throughout the book, keeping me on my toes and expecting to be shocked at every turn. And I was!
As well as the main character, there are many notable side-characters, who are all three dimensional and developed. While genius CEO Adam and cruel Emperor Nik-Nik were the most interesting to discover, Cara’s relationship with her mentor Jean and sister Esther were equally brilliant. With the slow burn romance, it’s more of a subplot to the story than anything, but I just wish there was more! After the big revelation, the romance ending felt a little rushed and I wanted to see more of them navigating the start of their relationship (but maybe I’m just being greedy). Either way, I loved seeing a bisexual and black main character, a f/f romance and casual non-binary secondary characters.
We are planets in orbit, pulling at each other as surely as gravity.
One last thing I want to talk about is the writing style. There are so many profound quotes I could share (and I’m temped to make another post with my favourite quotes), but Johnson’s writing is also seamlessly easy to follow and understand. It’s complicated without being complicated.
Thank you for reading! Have you read The Space Between Worlds, and did you enjoy it?
I haven’t read this one yet but I am planning to soon! The concept is so intriguing and you’ve made me ever more interested in it with your review 🙂 I’m so excited to hear that though the characters aren’t one dimensional and it’s introspective it is still fast paced!
Great review, you managed to touch on everything I wanted to know about this book!
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Thank you so much, I hope you’ll like it as much as I did! 😊
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