The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction
Publishing Info: August 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton (Illumicrate edition)
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
CARA IS DEAD ON THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR WORLDS.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying–from diseases, from turf wars, from vendettas they couldn’t outrun.
But on this earth, Cara’s survived. And she’s reaping the benefits, thanks to the well-heeled Wiley City scientists who ID’d her as an outlier and plucked her from the dirt. Now she’s got a new job collecting offworld data, a path to citizenship, and a near-perfect Wiley City accent. Now she can pretend she’s always lived in the city she grew up staring at from the outside, even if she feels like a fraud on either side of its walls.
But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, 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 world, but the entire multiverse.
The Space Between Worlds is an impressive debut. The idea of multiverses and doppelgangers drew me to this book. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but this twisty novel took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting. It strikes an excellent balance between being thought-provoking and entertaining.
The novel explores privilege and power in a world divided between those who live in the city and those who live outside it. Cara is from Ashtown but lives and works in Wiley City, so we get an interesting perspective on the lives of people in both locations and their attitudes and prejudices. The worldbuilding is really interesting and provokes reflection on the divides in our own society.
At first, I didn’t gel with the protagonist, Cara, but she grew on me during the course of the book. She’s flawed but also likeable. She’s been through a lot and has endured both physical and emotional abuse. Alongside the main plotline, we also see Cara go through a healing process as she explores her past and re-evaluates what she knows about herself through her knowledge of her lives on other worlds.
We only see Cara visit a small number of other worlds and the majority of the book is set on Earth 0, where the traversers travel to the other worlds from. But we do get an insight into what she’s seen on the other worlds, and a chunk of the novel is set on one of the other Earths. I liked seeing the variations between worlds and how people and events are different as a consequence of small or big changes. Someone making a slightly different decision at an important moment can result in big differences to the world Cara is from.
While Cara is the focus of The Space Between Worlds, there were also some great side characters such as Esther, Mr. Cheeks and Nik Nik. I would have liked to have known Dell more. She is a big part of the book and really important to Cara, but I didn’t feel like I had a grasp of her character or how she fits into Wiley City society. Having said that, I did love her scenes with Cara and loved seeing their relationship evolve.
There are a lot of big revelations early on and there continue to be plenty of twists throughout the novel. This book was unpredictable so I kept wanting to read more to find out what turn the story would take next. The pacing was spot on. A lot happens in 336 pages, but it didn’t feel crammed in at all.
I would recommend The Space Between Worlds even for people who aren’t normally science fiction readers. It isn’t a hard sci-fi book, and is far more about the people, cultures and big themes like classism than it is about the science behind multiverses and traversing. The ending is done so well and left me feeling both emotional and satisfied. I look forward to reading more of Micaiah Johnson’s work.