Title: The Space Between Worlds
Author: Miciah Johnson
Age-range/genre: Adult / Sci-Fi, Dystopia
Trigger warnings: .domestic violence, physical abuse, drug abuse, murder
Rating: 5/5 stars
Summary: [from goodreads]
Multiverse travel is finally possible, 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 disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
recommended for: fans of multiverse stories, sapphic sci-fi novels, and fantastic worldbuilding and commentary.
The Space Between Worlds is a wonderfully written sci-fi novel that straddles the line of speculative fiction. It dives into themes of class and capitalism, all the while being a thrilling and fun ride as we jump into different worlds.
I didn’t have many expectations going into the novel – no one I knew had read it, so I did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it; it was such a fresh new take on travelling between dimensions.
A short summary – The Space Between Worlds follows Cara, a traveller who lives on Earth Zero. This world has figured out how to send people to different dimensions, although it’s only possible for people whose doppelgangers have already died in the other worlds. There are 380 worlds, and Cara can travel to 372 of them – meaning she is dead on that many worlds. It’s on a trip to World 175 that things start to go wrong, and Cara has to make some momentous decisions.
I immediately fell in love with this concept of multiverse travel. It feels so unique, and devastating at the same time – imagine being Cara and knowing that in this entire universe, 372/380 versions of you have died. It’s an interesting premise and a fun set up to look at alternate timelines/worlds and what could have been.
The different worlds weren’t entirely far off from each other in changes; it showed how even the smallest of changes can result in such different outcomes (hello butterfly effect!). Johnson is able to set apart all the worlds from each other with great worldbuilding and storytelling. There wasn’t a moment in the story where I felt confused or bored. Her writing is so beautiful – the way she is able to poetically describe dystopian worlds is amazing, and incredibly easy to picture.
Johnson also created great multifaceted characters and doppelgangers. It was so interesting seeing the intricacies in how characters different from their doppelgangers from other worlds. There are also so many morally grey characters who are also very multifaceted, and seeing how the pendulum swings on their morality dependent on the world they’re from and the path they’ve taken.
There were also so many relationships and characters I loved reading about, both on Earth Zero and the other worlds. I adored the sibling bonds between Cara and Esther, and loved seeing how they cared for and looked out for each other, and how their bond is not too different on a world they are not stepsiblings. I also enjoyed the romantic tension we had between Dell and Cara, and how this was a slowburn on the backburner during the novel.
Johnson also delved into race and class too. People from a rich and/or middle-class background were not able to travel to other dimensions, because they would obviously still be alive in the other dimensions and benefiting from their wealth. So, instead they recruit people from the city outskirts, mostly people of colour, to travel and help colonise the other worlds for them. And yet despite this, Cara is still not seen as an actual citizen for the city.
It’s through sheer luck that only a few of Cara’s counterparts have survived – of being in the right place at the right time. And that’s only a small percentage of all her doppelgangers! It shows that it’s so hard to be dealt a good hand when you’re living in poverty. Those stories of luck, of people getting out, are just stories of a few, and Cara has to travel to different worlds every day knowing that another version of her hadn’t been lucky enough to make it out alive.
Overall, The Space Between Worlds is a wonderful story that delves into many themes, all wrapped up in a thrilling sci-fi story. It’s a fun ride and such a great reintroduction for me into the sci-fi genre.
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