I really went back and forth with my thoughts on this book. On one hand, I really liked it. On the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style. I loved the surprises around every corner, but I also didn’t like that everything (even characters) were a surprise. How do you enjoy a story, but not enjoy the experience of reading it?
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.
I love science fiction stories like this one. While I’m a huge fan of space operas and traveling to other planets and exploring the worlds there within, I love keeping it on planet Earth and diving into the fiction of science fiction. Everything from time travel to multiverse existence always excites me. The Space Between Worlds was definitely right up my alley.
I felt like there were multiple dichotomies happening at the same time here. First, there’s Cara’s journeys through the multiverses. As a person who only has 8 surviving dopplegangers in the 382 worlds that exist in this story, she’s the one who can travel to most worlds without the concerns of Nyame and the space/time continuum destroying her. This was the first “between” place and Johnson does an incredible job with describing Cara’s emotions as she travels. I love the idea of Nyame wrapping you in her blanket of multiverse and how each trip for Cara affects her emotionally.
Then there’s the dichotomy of the two cities; Ashtown and Wiley City. Ashtown is filled with low-income folks, criminals, and sex workers all trying to make money and survive with an Emperor who prefers pain and suffering and power over the lives of his subjects. Wiley City is a massive skyscraper where people work and live together. Depending on your wealth, you can live in the comfort of this place without worries over money. For Cara and her dopplegangers, Ashtown was always home and the only place she knows. Then she lives in Wiley City and understands the comforts of being there and tries her best to preserve that.
I love that there’s this class dichotomy here. The uber rich against the lowly poor. There’s also the conversation of race as dark-skinned people mostly live in Ashtown and are subject to the brutal sun (this world’s ozone barely protects humans) and light-skinned people live in Wiley City with filtered lights that protect their skin. I absolutely loved that Cara was the go-between in so many different ways. She’s seen life of the uber wealthy. She’s lived her life as a sex worker. She knows exactly how each world lives and can thus adjust herself accordingly. I love with this knowledge she’s able to be the person to uncover the realities of these worlds and the people who run them.
Then there’s the dichotomy of power. Two brothers who fight for seat of power; one using his mind to create his ideal universe and the other who inherits his throne and selfishly runs it with an overinflated ego. To be honest, there’s so many different topics this book brings up in such a clever way. The way the book is written and the world is set up, it brings a lot of the real world social issues we see and makes them a part of this narrative. With Cara playing the go-between, readers are able to see both sides of the coin and it’s so obvious that not everything in both these towns is black and white.
I was worried this would be another character-driven novel, but there were some excellent twists and surprises all throughout. I won’t spoil them, but I will say the book wasn’t boring. I also appreciated that the book didn’t go too deeply into the quantum mechanics. While it’s loosely based on the theory, it wasn’t too overwhelming to make it difficult for the average reader to understand. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get into science fiction, but doesn’t know where to start.
I also loved the relationships Cara had with other characters. Johnson really dove into the complexity of these relationships and made her secondary characters feel just as important as Cara. First, there’s Dell. Dell is Cara’s “handler” when she travels through the multiverse. She’s also had a massive crush on her ever since she met her, so there’s a little “office romance,” if you will. I also loved Cara’s stepsister and stepbrother and even the religion that Esther is a big part of. I also found Cara’s relationship with Nik Nik (the Emperor of Ashtown) to be quite dynamic. Honestly, I loved the dynamics of every relationship in this book.
However, I couldn’t get into the writing style. Much of my criticism is about the way this story is written. The beginning of the story felt clunky while Johnson goes into details on how the world works. There were some instances where I wasn’t sure which character was speaking. There were moments where I was confused by the actions the main character would take because I had no idea where they would lead. There was also the big question of “why?” any of this was happening. I wanted there to be more clarity so that I could understand the rest of the story.
I felt like in an effort to keep as much close to the chest, Johnson kept too much too close where almost every single page there’s a big reveal. I like it when authors reveal villains to be one way or another, but I’m not a big fan when everything (even simple conversations) felt like they were surprises around every corner.
Finally, the ending wasn’t my favorite. I liked where the story was going about halfway through and the character’s decisions made sense, but it felt anti-climactic. I wanted there to be way more than we were given, but I also don’t fault the author for ending the story the way they wanted.
Overall, this is a great story for anyone who’s interested in science fiction and wants to read something that isn’t too heavy on the theory and filled with those action packed surprises. It’s a good starter for anyone new to the genre. However, the writing style and pacing of the story really threw me off and personally affected my enjoyment of the story. I’ll definitely be reading more from Micaiah Johnson in the future.
Thanks to Crown Publishing for a gifted copy of this book.