THE SPACE BETWEEN THE STARS
Written by Anne Corlett
Published by Berkley, June 13, 2017
My star rating: 4 stars
All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit… Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.
Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be… (Goodreads)
First of all, I need to thank the people at Berkley and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to review this wonderful book! I received an ARC copy but it in no way influences my opinions.
It sounded so simple. The world they’d known, over and done. Time to start again, and get it right this time. There was an attraction to the idea, like a book of fairy tales, with every “the end” followed by a turn of the page and another “once upon a time”.
This isn’t your typical science fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of YA science fiction lately that involves a lot of space, science and adventure. This one was centrally focused on the human element and their connections more so than the plot. Jamie, the main character, awakes to find herself completely alone. A virus quickly spread across the universe killing almost everyone yet she somehow beat the odds. On her quest to find out if she’s alone and what happens next, she finds herself in the company of a group people that couldn’t be more different. Jamie as a character was well written. She had a very difficult and traumatic past that she never really dealt with and now she’s faced with the possible end of humanity. She was lost in a way that I felt I could understand as her thoughts and emotions were written so clearly. Wandering and unsure of what to do or where to go, attempting to help those who need it. I do feel like she clung on to her past a little too much at times, but when dealing with trauma’s like loss who’s to say how much is too much? It was beautiful to see how she connected to these strangers and how they helped her through the difficult times in her past. In a time where your future is unsure, it’s only natural to reflect on the past.
The other cast of characters wasn’t very large and were very easy to identify. As I said above, they were all so different. Each one lent a different perspective and direction to this survival story. There was a space pilot, an engineer, a scientist/religious enthusiast, a preacher, a prostitute, and a mentally ill young man. I felt as though they were all written in a way that I understood their emotions perfectly and got a clear picture of their past that helped shape them to what they were today. There seemed to be a perfect balance of the smaller tragedies against this large scale tragedy and it was really interesting to see how they worked together for a common goal.
In their search for ‘what comes next”, they met many other survivors who were in different stages of acceptance of this situation. Some were grasping onto hope, some were content with what they had, and some were furiously trying to rebuild and fix things. It was so unique to see the differences in how people wanted to live. I can’t go into detail (for the risk of spoiling anything) but the common theme seemed to be that not everyone has the same idea of what it is to “live” and “thrive”. That, to me, was the most beautiful (and terrifying) message.
Having said that, one of the reasons people had different ideas of living was there was a social class in this world. There was the Upper Echelon and Lower Echelon – easily identified by a marking on their fingers. The Upper Echelon were people who were considered important contributors to society with big jobs and grander freedoms. The Lower Echelon were a lower class of people with menial jobs and meant to serve. This class system is what caused unrest before the virus. We got the basic idea of this class system and the turmoil it caused but, to be honest, I wanted more detail. I had a vague idea of the world and what motivated the class system and space travel, but I think that the plot would have impacted me more had I had more information. But I loved seeing how the different “classes” reacted after the virus hit. Some were ok with who they were and, even though there was no need for a line to be drawn, they stayed true to who they were before as it’s the only thing they knew and thought they were good for. Throughout this book there were inserts of Jamie looking into her past traumas. I wish that there maybe could have been some reflection on what she was doing when the world was at war with itself. There were some really strong political motivations lying underneath of this plot and if there was more detail and was allowed to come to the surface, my emotions while reading this would have been off the charts!
I will admit that I was nervous when religion came into the story. I’m not a religious person at all and I was afraid that it was going to be the whole message. But it wasn’t. Religion is a very tricky and sensitive topic so I won’t be talking about it in detail. I’ll just say that I thought it was well handled and I appreciated the vast beliefs presented from multiple character views.
The writing was fantastic and the pace was relatively steady. The first chapter of this book was probably one of the best first chapters I’ve ever read and hooked me so completely. The writing was filled with beauty and emotion. She was able to capture the thoughts and feelings of each character so completely. And there were a few plot twists that had my jaw dropping. I hope to read more from this author!
I wish that I could write more about this book but, since it’s SO character driven, there really isn’t a whole lot left for me to say. This is a book that I think you need to just FEEL. It’s one that will strike different thoughts and emotions in different people and will continue to make you think once you’ve finished reading. It’s all about how people come together and pick up the pieces in the face of a disaster. Everyone thinks they’re doing the “right thing” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right for everyone. The fact that there are so many characters with drastically diverse personalities makes it easy to relate to some and may make you angry with others.
I will leave you with my favourite excerpt:
It was the first time she’d been at the front of the ship for takeoff. She watched the clear blue of the sky fade into off white, and then there was a moment where that white seemed to give way to something that was the opposite of colour, a not-quite nothing that made her look away for a moment. Then all of that fell away as they cleared the atmosphere. Where you were down there looking up, it was light that you saw. But up here it was all black, with only the pinpricks of stars to lift the darkness. It was as though the sun were an illusion, designed to keep you happy there, trapped against whatever little piece of the universe you’d decided to call home.
Literally the entire time I was reading this I couldn’t stop thinking of two other books. Both Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Becky Chambers) had a few similarities. In Station Eleven there’s a virus sweeping Earth, attempting to take out the entire population. Few survive and they try to find their purpose. This one focuses a lot on their connections in the past and what brought them to where they were in the present. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet was about a different kind of survival, but it was set in space and it was also VERY character driven. I felt like they had the same emotional climate. If you’ve read The Space Between the Stars and liked it – I HIGHLY recommend these two!!
Have you read this one yet? Is it on your TBR?
Until next time, happy reading!!