The Space Between the StarsThe Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What would you do when you woke up to a dead planet?

Who would you become when faced with extinction?

Who history or belief matter?

People this book is NOT for: science fiction enthusiasts, those who hate (or become offended) when they find themselves listening or involved in theological discussion, people who enjoy complexity in character or plot, and those looking for a dystopian tale set in space.

Whew. Glad we got that cleared up. If you fall into any of the above categories, beware this is probably not your shtick despite the blurb. Now for the meat of the matter…

“Terminal in almost all cases. Almost. A lot of life could fit into that one small word.”

The human race has expanded across the stars through forced immigration decrees and personal choices. Now a virus has decimated the many billions of people across the many planets and dozens of star systems leaving handfuls of survivors on once densely populated worlds.

“Home’s what’s left over when you’ve figured out all the places you don’t want to be.”

When Jamie wakes up alive after the sickness ravaged her on her outlying world, she has no reason to continue as she has. No job that needs doing. No money to spend. She decides to make her way home- to Earth- and the man she may have loved.

“I don’t mean we have to live pressed up against one another. There’s going to be space enough for everyone.”

“There always was,” Callan said. “The problem is that most people seem to want everyone else to believe what they believe, like that will make them more right. Seems to me that a lot of our problems would disappear if people stopped believing in things and just settled for knowing things.”

“It’s the same thing,” Rena said.

“It’s not,” Callan said. “When you know something, it’s just how it is. Believing isn’t as certain as that. People who believe are always looking for proof, always trying to twist the world to make it fit, so they can say, There you go, I was right all along.”

Through chance and against statistical probabilities Jamie finds a way off her planet with a rag tag group of survivors. However, just because the human population can now be measured in the hundreds that does not mean that old prejudices, long held beliefs, and shaping histories will simply disappear. Nor does it mean that old lives {relationships} can be picked up and pasted back together.

Ooookaaayy, so the science-fiction part if the plot is minimal…honestly the fact that this happens to planets instead of countries is barely notable. They do not spend their time long on the ship or any one planet. Basically we touch down on planets just to see how different types of personalities are coping with the sudden downturn in population and resources as well as to pick up our cast of strays. And strays they are.

None of the main characters fit into society comfortably. We have the mad scientist, the preacher without a religion, the introverted ship captain, the young prostitute, the developmentally different boy, the crabby engineer who prefers systems to people, and Jamie- the woman who is not comfortable in her own skin and blames the world for it.

And even the majority of those characters are 2 dimensional. So what is the point if the plot is barely holding itself together and the characters lack depth? The philosophies. The existential discussions we have with ourselves and others. The “HOW” of how people would cope when faced with the end of the human race. With a little by-the-way glance of how human belief and behavior will propagate the very end.

“All those years spent trying to get off this planet. Then close on a century digging ourselves in, setting up shop on every rock that looked like it could hold us. And here we are, unraveling it all, making our way back to a random little corner of the place it all started.”

This story is about Jamie. And Jamie is all of us. She is confused and a little bit broken and just trying to find her way home. Each character was an extreme manifestation of one view of society. Each experience was designed by the author to bring about discussion and feeling within Jamie, and therefore within ourselves.

“The problem with stories and songs—no, scratch that, the problem with words—is that they make us squeeze all the messy bits of life into something small and snappy. All the things you feel. The times you hate one another. The times you want to tear open your skin and let the other person climb inside. All that, and only one word for it.It’s like there’s only one way of doing things. You get it right or you get it wrong. But no two people are the same.”

The problem was that the author was so busy creating great one-liners and interesting discussion points that the story part of the book fell by the wayside. Situations felt bouncy, forced, and rushed. Characters only existed to get reactions from Jamie. We ended up being TOLD what was going on and how we should feel instead of being SHOWN.

I read this book the same way I read philosophies, theologies and policies- I read a bit, put it down for a few days and thought, and then read a bit more. The emphasis was not on the characters or the plot but rather the human interactions and possiblities.

“There was something bitingly unreal about the situation. Drinking whiskey and talking about faith in an empty bar on an empty planet.”

To recap if you want a story…this is not the book. If you want a lot of heavy God talk and extreme dystopia type scenarios (view spoiler)with a heavy emphasis on social and political ideological pitfalls…then grab your favorite blanket and snuggle in.

The upside is that this is not a long or hard read if you decide to give it a go. And the one-liners really do make a person think.

“The last days?” Jamie said.

“What else would you call it?”

“Life,” Jamie replied. “Not an end. Not a new beginning. Just another bit in the middle, and who knows what comes next?”

This ARC was provided by netgalley for an honest review.