The Space Between Worlds, Micaiah Johnson: A Review
For this read, I stepped outside the thrillers and horror and into a world-builder sci-fi. I was a huge fan of Travelers on Netflix (which was cancelled way too early, in my humble opinion). The Space Between Worlds had a similar pitch, and I couldn't wait to pick it up. Cara is a traverser, someone who can travel through the multiverse to other worlds in order to pull information that can be used in her main world. Comparing mortality rates, wealth, population--indeed, much more analytical than you'd expect out of a time-traveling narrative--the CEO, Adam Bosch, is able to see how other worlds stack up. The rules are fairly simple: you cannot go to a world in which your other self is still alive, and doing so has catastrophic consequences. Cara is one of the busiest and best traversers, until she takes on a pull where her "dop" has been murdered. This assignment changes everything, and Cara finds herself in the middle of political intrigues, civil war, and a complex web of lies that extend into her own life and threaten to shake the very ground on which she stands. I mean, what a premise, right? Sign me up ASAP. One of the things I liked about Space Between Worlds was the exploration of time. Imagine one you in 380 variations: the choices you didn't make, the you in another world made, sending them on a completely different path. In some worlds you fare better than others, in fact, in some worlds, you may well be dead, and unless you have knowledge of traversing, you have no idea these other yous exist, because at the same time (see what I did there?), you're your own person, separate from these other variations. This was fascinating, and Johnson did a great job world-building--not an easy feat. Cara struggles with her relationship with her handler, Dell, and I really appreciated her philosophical reflection on how we never real know another person, but also that we never really know ourselves. We think we know ourselves, but our knowledge is based on the current situation. We don't know ourselves in dire circumstances, in cutthroat attacks or extreme poverty (or extreme wealth). Her assumption is that these external stimuli essentially change who you are, and because of this, she constantly questions her own place in the world, who she is, and what she wants. She struggles with her role as a traverser, with the knowledge she's gleaned from other worlds, with where she grew up and who she's supposed to be. While she doesn't feel like an outsider, per se, she's acutely aware of the stereotypes around her upbringing and uses them to push herself to be something others would want her to be. Plenty of introspection to go around, but if you're looking for a novel with a dramatic battle, this won't be the read for you. Most of the action is quiet, intelligence over brawn, in spite the buildup feeling like a huge war was coming. I appreciated the lesser violent take on events, but I was wanting a little more payoff for Cara's arc, and I think that kept me from absolutely loving her conclusion. However, if you are a fan of deep reflection, political intrigue, and deceptions that don't lead to shoot-outs and Michael Bay explosions, The Space Between Worlds is the book for you. I'd also like to note that Johnson is a beautiful writer, and her command of dialogue and prose was wonderfully smooth to read. Overall, a great read with an unexpected path, The Space Between Worlds is an adventure into time travel. Thank you to Ballantine and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.