Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Trade Paperback – 11 August 2020)
Length: 329 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Interested in reading a compelling and clever science fiction novel that takes place across multiple alternate dimensions? You need to check out The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson, one of the most fascinating debuts of 2020.
The Space Between Worlds was an intriguing novel that I was lucky enough to receive and read last year. This fantastic first novel from Johnson was an exciting and deep read, but I completely failed to review it after finishing it and I have been meaning to write something up for a while. As we have just gotten into the second month of 2021, I have finally had a chance to rectify this by doing a quick review of The Space Between Worlds, which was a truly impressive and captivating first outing from Johnson.
A stunning science fiction debut, The Space Between Worlds is both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
‘My mother used to say I was born reaching, which is true. She also used to say it would get me killed, which it hasn’t. Not yet, anyway.’
Born in the dirt of the wasteland, Cara has fought her entire life just to survive. Now she has done the impossible, and landed herself a comfortable life on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, she’s on a sure path to citizenship and security – on this world, at least.
Of the 380 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but 8.
Cara’s parallel selves are exceptionally good at dying – from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun – which makes Cara wary, and valuable. Because while multiverse travel is possible, no one can visit a world in which their counterpart is still alive. And no one has fewer counterparts than Cara.
But then one of her eight doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, and Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her earth, but the entire multiverse.
Johnson has come up with a very compelling story in The Space Between Worlds that follows Cara, who makes a living hopping across alternate realities to obtain useful data and information that her parent company can utilise. Cara, who originally lived in a violent wasteland slum outside the gleaming city where her employers are based, is given a new reality to visit when her doppelganger from that reality apparently dies. However, when she arrives at the new world, she finds that not everything is as it seems, and she encounters a vastly different and infinitely more dangerous version of the town that she grew up in. Her visit to this reality places her in even more danger when it uncovers some long-buried secrets about her own world, including something from Cara’s own past that she has long tried to keep hidden. This was an extremely compelling and fast-paced story that proved very easy to get addicted to. Johnson’s narrative is filled with some fantastic and impressive twists and turns as Cara finds herself amid a dark conspiracy that has its roots in the dimensional travel that keeps her employed. While it is easy to read this book only for the cool science fiction thriller elements, readers will also become enthralled with the deep character moments as the protagonist tries to come to term with who she is and whether all the versions of her are cursed or damaged in the same way. All of this makes for an excellent story which is extremely fun to read.
My favourite part of The Space Between Worlds had to be the exceptional alternate reality elements that were such a distinctive part of the book’s plot. In this dystopian future, Earth contains at least 380 alternate realities that can only be visited by someone whose duplicate in that universe is already dead. Each of these realities is slightly different, with differing personal decisions resulting in changes to the lives and personalities of its inhabitants. Johnson did a fantastic job introducing the entire concept around the alternate reality travel to the reader, including with a few entertaining quotes and anecdotes, and I liked how the author envisioned how travelling between dimensions could be utilised and how it could happen. The scenes featuring the jump to the alternate realities are really trippy, and I loved the quasi-religious nature that those interdimensional travellers take as they view the space that exists between realities.
While all the theory, science and practicalities behind Johnson’s version of reality-jumping is cool, the real beauty is the way in which the author works it into the plot of the book. Throughout the course of The Space Between Worlds you see several different alternate versions of the same dystopian future, and it was really intriguing to see the subtle differences between them. The real shock is when the latest world Cara visits turns out to be completely upside down, as several key people in her lives have changed dramatically, including Nik Nik, a brutal warlord to whom Cara’s destiny is constantly tied no matter which reality they are in. Seeing a completely different version of some of the featured characters in this novel really drives home just how significant a single moment can be and how certain events can change everything about someone. The author works a lot of the cool revelations, similar character histories and unique details about each character across the cosmos into the overarching plot, helping to create a thrilling tale with some powerful and intense character studies. I had an outstanding time seeing these cool alternate reality science fiction elements coming into play throughout the book and they proved to be a fantastic and clever addition to the narrative.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson was an extremely compelling and cleverly inventive science fiction debut that is really worth checking out. I loved the complex and fascinating tale of choices, fate and thrilling betrayals that the author wove through the course of this book, and this was a fantastic book to check out. I look forward to seeing what Johnson will cook up next and I am sure that it will result in another intriguing and captivating read.