Book Review: The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
I received a promotional copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Berkley (June 13, 2017)
Length: 368 pages
The Space Between the Stars is a contemplative novel about one woman’s journey through a desolate, broken down galaxy after much of humanity has been wiped out by a deadly plague. Jamie Allenby was able to escape much of the chaos due to the fact she was working on a remote planet at the time, but while her choice to be alone may have saved her from the worst effects of the virus, it also left her cut off from the rest of civilization. Now she is desperate to reconnect with her long-term partner Daniel, whom she had sought some time away from after the loss of their unborn child. Jamie has no idea if Daniel is even still alive, but an unknown transmission received on her communicator gives her hope. Recalling a conversation they once had about meeting up in Northumberland if an apocalypse scenario ever happened, Jamie begins working on a plan to return to Earth.
Before long, Jamie meets up with another group of survivors and she is able to leave her lonely planet on a spaceship captained by a man named Callan. A ragtag crew made up of characters with diverse origins, her new traveling companions are all nonetheless struggling with similar fears of the future and trying to come to terms with the loss of so many people. Differences in opinion and beliefs are a cause of much friction among the group especially in the early weeks, as everyone must accept that the old ways are gone and that the way ahead is more uncertain than ever.
To begin, I didn’t think The Space Between the Stars was a bad book, but my overall enjoyment was admittedly dragged down by some pretty deep flaws. You may have heard already that the novel is inherently light on the science fiction, despite its post-apocalyptic premise and space traveling narrative. While this is true, I was surprised to find that I actually didn’t mind the lack of sci-fi elements. No, what I did mind was the novel’s thin plot and absence of any clear direction.
I believe part of the problem stems from the protagonist. Unfortunately, I found Jamie’s character extremely annoying and unlikeable, to the point where everything she did, said, or thought made me want to grind my teeth. I get that she’s a broken and complicated survivor, who has had to deal with some pretty rough stuff. Still, let’s be real—in a scenario where almost the entire human population has been wiped out, who hasn’t been touched by pain and loss? For Jamie though, self-reflection is almost non-existent. She’s also judgmental and hypocritical, too wrapped up with her own problems to open her heart and sympathize with others. This is a character who, by her own admission, dropped out of medical school and switched to veterinary medicine because pesky human patients had that pesky way of telling her about their pesky feelings. Heaven forfend! On top of that, she also can’t stop obsessing about her past. In a devastated world best served by positive attitudes and long-term thinking, she’s bogged down instead with lame excuses for her wishy-washiness and negativity. That’s because bitterness is a constant for Jamie. To see what I mean, just count how many times the words “resent”, “resentment”, and “resentful” come up in the book when they’re being used to describe her moods. The answer is: Way too much.
It’s rare for me to feel such dislike for a main character, but as hard as I tried to compartmentalize those feelings, they nonetheless played a huge role in influencing my overall experience. Often, I found myself wishing we could follow the tale through the eyes of the other characters, like kind and grandfatherly Lowry, pragmatic Gracie, or even the shy and awkward Mila. The story itself was decent, but I also didn’t come away feeling like I got much from it. For all the characters’ planet-hopping and space-faring, the novel’s universe felt small and uninspired, and while there were several interesting developments in terms of world-building, there just wasn’t enough follow through to satisfy me.
Still, I have no doubt most of my disappointment is rooted in my inability to connect with the protagonist. It’s always an uphill battle in these cases, so it’s really tough for me to look objectively at this book and separate its other aspects from my critical feelings towards Jamie. That said, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to check out other reviews if you’re curious about trying a quieter and more low-key sci-fi read. The Space Between the Stars was simply not a good fit for me, but as always your own mileage may vary.