The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (2020) – Earth Zero has discovered how to traverse between worlds. Cara is valued as a traverser because her doppelgangers are dead on most of the worlds known. If you arrive in a world where the other you is still alive, your death will be kind of quick and very painful. The many secrets held by the Eldridge Institute, the other Earths, and Cara herself will set them all on a path they didn’t include in their plans.
Micaiah Johnson offers up a solid tale of identity, privilege, and betrayal, set against the concept of parallel worlds. For most (all?) science fiction readers, this is familiar territory. That every possible version of reality exists, all at the same time. Somewhere, there is a version of me writing a scathing review of this book. My bet is that those worlds are in the definite minority.
All my primary checkboxes are ticked here. Good storytelling, solid believable characters, at least one good surprise (more than that here), and an idea that keeps me thinking AFTER I’ve finished the book. I must confess, it took me two tries to get hooked on this one. Looking back, I don’t blame “The Space Between Worlds” for that issue. As I’ve noted before, last year was a hard year for reading for me. I wasn’t in the right reading headspace the first time and was the second. Johnson pulled me in and kept me going through the book. What more can you ask for, right?
Hard science science fiction fans may have issues because there’s very little deep exploration of the science here. Doesn’t bother me at all. Parallel universes are a familiar concept, and the story builds very nicely from the common understanding. I’m not big on the hard science approach, so I’m happy when we can focus on the characters and the story. If I do have an issue, it would be the “colonial power” issue of how Earth Zero deals with the other worlds is barely touched. Earth Zero uses the other worlds for their resources. Little, if anything, flows back to help these worlds deal with their own issues. And there are plenty of issues. Johnson touches on this but doesn’t fully develop it. There is plenty of room to explore it more in a sequel. At the same time, the story is satisfying and complete as it stands.
This is the debut novel for Johnson. It shows that there’s great potential here. Another author whose work I will keep an eye open for.
Rating – **** Recommended