Cover Image: The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds

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Member Reviews

I'm so glad I finally found the time to get to this oldest book on my TBR-pile! I've had it there since it was nominated for a Hugo two years ago, but other deadlines pushed it aside till I finally had a moment this January to dive in.

And oh, what a smart, elegant, emotional novel it is! I wish all professors of literature were like Micaiah Johnson, because then I'd know that society was in for writing that seriously contemplates human values and conditions instead of the pretentious navel-gazing dreck that passes for fine arts literature nowadays. Clearly, I have an ax to grind with the authors and industry professionals who've wasted hours of my life pushing works with dull plots and tedious writing. I mean, y'all, I just read a book where the one guy is described as being "basted with a light batter of money." Tell me someone else does all the cooking for you without telling me etc. while you focus on your Very Serious Writing Career.

But I digress. The Space Between Worlds is a sci-fi novel about a woman who can walk between the many dimensions of the multiverse. The catch is that you can't travel into a dimension where your counterpart is still alive. Cara's alternate selves seem to be really good at dying, as she discovers over the course of her career as a Traverser. But when she realizes that she has a surprising connection to some of the most powerful people in all the dimensions she can walk into, she'll have to decide whether her cushy life is worth risking for the fate of people who aren't the ones she actually knows and loves.

This is a shockingly deep examination of what people owe others, how we can give back in our own ways, and how we're obligated to lend a helping hand where we can. It's also a persuasive argument for how opportunities can change most people for the better, even if some remain incorrigibly villainous no matter what you do. Bi-friendly and sex- and sex-worker-positive, this novel wears its progressive politics on its sleeve, even as it urges readers to not take things at face value but to give everyone the kind of consideration you'd want for yourself when navigating difficult situations.

Above all that, it's just some really tremendous writing, with plot twists that had me yelling like someone (else) had slapped down gin rummy at the competitive family card game. I cried at parts and fully laughed at others in this amazing book. It's hard to believe that this is Ms Johnson's debut novel. It's so assured and perfect, and I'm so, so glad I had a chance to experience this multiverse she's created. I'm honestly a little scared at where a sequel might go, but fingers crossed Ashtown will be as moving and intelligent as this was.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson was published August 4 2020 by Crown/Del Rey and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="https://bookshop.org/a/15382/9780593156919">Bookshop!</a>
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so many people have raved about this book. I wanted to love it. I think it was too scifi for me - and yes, I know that's the genre, but I wanted to give it a chance even though it's not usually my favorite. I found the plot hard to follow.
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I read this book as part of voting on the Astounding Award, and I'm really glad I did! I appreciate the way Johnson uses the multiple-worlds conceit to bring out different facets of her characters.
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I took a bit to get into this book, but I am glad I came back to it. The world building and traveling were fun and provided the backbone of the plot. However, the strongest part of the book was the relationships between the characters and that was believable as a motivator for the plot. My only complaint was the romantic relationship was hard to buy into. The strength of the relationship seemed like it needed more time to build to where it ended up. I almost felt like there was more chemistry with a side character. All in all, I would read more by the author and appreciated the complexity of this world and the individuality of multiple side characters. I gave it 4 stars.  

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.
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Cara is a traverser of worlds and walks between the spaces of the multi-verse to gather data for the corporation she works for.  But this specialty comes at a cost.  In order for a person to traverse the multi-verse, they have to be dead on the Earth they are traveling to.   Born in Ashtown,  the rural area of the barren wastes outside of Wiley City, she's dead on a lot of Earths.  For Cara, a hop to another dimension is just another day at the office, until one day, she travels to an Earth where she is still alive.  Despite the brutal affects on her body, she is saved by an unlikely ally that will forever change the course of her life on her own. Nik Nik is the Emperor of the wastes and someone that Cara hoped never to cross paths with again.   I enjoyed this book and the world building.  It is a brutal dystopia, but not without hope.  The love interest isn't very well fleshed out, so it is a small part of the story and the main storyline about Cara and Nik Nik is more interesting anyway.   #netgalley #thespacebetweenworlds
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I really enjoyed this book. I wanted a few more details in some places, and the ending wasn't my favorite (though I saw there might be a sequel, so that would explain that), but overall I really liked it.
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Alternate reality stories are some of my favorite things, and I loved the author's take on it. The premise of The Space Between Worlds is that alternate worlds exist, but you can only travel to ones that are similar to your own (they have to resonate, to use their word). Unfortunately, if you travel to another world where another version of you already exists, the travel will kill you. So the company that manages the world hopping recruits only people who didn't grow up privileged, or came from areas with wars, because they're the least likely to have their other selves still be alive. Cara is dead on almost all of the worlds, making her very valuable. Except company gossip says they're close to not needing the travelers at all.

I loved the resolution of the conflict, how the hints were laid, and that it wasn't the typical resolution you'd expect. 4.5/5 stars, and I'll definitely be reading the the author's next book.
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A quite unique book, ''The Space Between Worlds'' is about Cara, a world traveler.

The multiverse exists. The technology to move from one universe to the other exists. The only catch? Your shelf in the world you want to visit has to be dead.

Cara is alive in 8 out of the 380 worlds her universe knows exist. So, her job is easy. Jump to one world, collect data, and jump back to her world.

What happens, though, when one of her shelves is murdered?
She needs to find out who did it.
And why.
And fast.
Because she is next.

It is a long book and it gets kind of repetitive around the middle, but all in all, it is a nice book to keep you company.
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Johnson does a great job with worldbuilding and furthering the plot. The first half of the book was absolutely engaging and raised some really important. I enjoyed the concepts that Johnson discusses, hypothesizing what my life would look like in multiple versions of me (not in the same world, of course). For me, the book started dragging a bit in the second half, which was disappointing, but overall, I thought this was a good read
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I rarely read Sci-Fi, because even though I love the futuristic, slightly more realistic than fantastic take on fiction, I rarely find a book that balances science and fiction well enough for me. Until now at least.

Cara is a traverser. Her job is to travel to one of the other dimensions close enough to her own to connect and bring back data. And Cara is valuable in what she does, because traversers can only go to worlds where their other-them is dead. And out of 381 worlds, Cara is alive on just eight.

There is so much to this book that I can't even begin to summarize it properly. The story unfolds, bit by bit, one problem building on the next, and still it's always the same. A bloodthirsty, power-hungry emperor seeking too much for the good of the world, needing to be stopped. Classism and Capitalism standing in the way of real connections, real freedom only in the "feral" lands.

I loved everything about this book. I loved the basis of the multiversal travel, I loved the setting, the perfect white Wiley city against the dust-filled, dirty, bloody Ashtown that somehow manages to have more and less morals at the same time. I loved the characters, all of them, because all of them felt real, they felt close and it hurt when someone died. So much so that you wished the multiverse opened up to escape to one of their other selves, find comfort in the knowledge that they're alive SOMEWHERE else.
Every part of this book felt exciting. The ever-present tension in the main relationship as much as in the one you almost wish would happen, the hurt, the healing, the coup, the revelations.
The way that this book completely turns around, good turning to bad and bad to good and ugh...I loved it so much.
Sometimes, just sometimes, things felt too smooth. Sometimes things felt too detached, problems solved too quickly when the scenes could have been made a little longer, fights a little more descriptive.
But I never once felt like I was missing something.

I saw other people complaining how some things were brought up again and again while others were never explained - runners for example. But to me that made perfect sense. After all it's Cara who tells this story, Cara who focuses on what she doesn't know and doesn't need to repeat what she's known all her life.

My only issue might be with the end, which bears the same problem I mentioned before. (view spoiler) then again, some part of me is a sucker for a happy ending :)

I loved reading this. And I would recommend it to anyone with just the slightest interest in multiverses and multiversal travel. It's great, it's strong and so perfectly subtly lgbt - other gender identities and sexualities never mentioned as something other, something special, just mentioned like the most natural thing in the world.

Thanks to Netgalley to providing me with the free book - I most likely will be buying it to have this beauty standing in my shelf :)
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I really enjoyed this book and found it difficult to put down. The plot moves along at a fast pace with compelling characters.  The only negative for me is that I wish there was a bit more world building, especially with respect to the setting's history. 
4.5/5
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This was a 2022 Hugo Awards Finalist for the Astounding Award, which is what moved it up to the top of my TBR List. I've been reading SF for decades and this is one of the most imaginative novels I have read in years. It involves parallel universes, a post-apocalyptic Earth, vast inequalities between classes and types of neighborhoods and worlds, trauma from sexual assault, and so much more.

While some of those sound (and are) grim, the story is hopeful in ways that I really did not expect.

It continued to surprise me right up to the last scene -- which ain't easy to do.

Good Job to the author. Highly recommended.
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<i>Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.</i>

I immediately fell in love with this book's premise. Furthermore, the caveat that multidimensional travel won't work if your counterpart is still alive is a really creative take on a way to avoid the paradox often created by these sorts of novels. However, despite all its promise and despite all its heart -- and it certainly has that in spades -- finishing this novel felt bittersweet.

Of the multitudes of characters introduced, many are beautifully complex and compelling to read about. Cara, Esther, and Mr. Cheeks in particular were wonderfully written, and had the time to shine. Others, however, such as Michael, David, Dell, Nik Nik, and even Jean left me wanting more. There is such a promise to each of these characters, but not enough time is spent developing their motivations, and for some to even develop beyond a superficial acknowledgement of their name.

There is also the spanner in the works of the plot itself. It felt, at times, like two or three novels worth of ideas crammed into one book. I thought I knew where the plot was going by about 30% of the way into the book, only for things to take a sharp turn about 70% of the way in. As such, the last act felt rushed. Too many ideas were being grappled with, and none really had time to develop with the detail and complexity that I was hoping for. I didn't have the emotional investment in events that I wanted to have, and even Dell and Cara's relationship fell flat as a result.

The way this book engages with ideas of classism, prejudice, privilege, fate, and the idea of being an outsider or (maybe just someone perpetually caught in between) is beautiful. Cara's list at the end of the first chapter was a cornerstone I found myself frequently coming back to as a beautiful theme woven just under the surface all throughout the text. I just wish there was more time to develop these ideas as well as to develop the world itself and the stakes at play.

If you're looking for a sci-fi that feels heavy on the social philosophy, this book is for you. I loved reading it, and know it will stay in my heart for a long time. However, I also have to acknowledge the drawbacks that kept it from being a truly spectacular read for me.
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I wasn't able to read this before its publication, but it was so brilliantly done. Enough plot for 3 books and switching genres with each section. Perfection.
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3.5 Stars

I'm not totally sure what to say about this book, it is not the sciency sci fi I expected. There was a lot of things going on and a lot of parts that were involved to move this along to the culmination of the story. It didn't feel clumsy or awkward though, which was good.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and really enjoyed Cara and Dell and Esther as characters.
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I am always excited for a good sci-fi/fantasy read and this book did both genres well.  I have enjoyed the multiverse trope recently but was worried that I might be tiring of it until I read "The Space Between Worlds." There was enough story and world-building in each world to keep me fully engaged. I even got caught by some (although not all) of the twists, which is unusual for me. This book is a wonderful stand-alone but I would be interested in returning to the world created. There were moments where I paused to highlight because the writing was beautiful, so I plan to return to this author.
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Every dimension-hopping technology needs a gimmick. The tech Cara uses has a big limited: you can only travel to a dimension where the alternate version of yourself is dead. And if they're still alive, very soon, YOU won't be.

Cara is good at one thing: dying. She's died in nearly every universe her company, the Eldridge Institute, has discovered. Few finish growing up in Ashtown, and now that dimension hopping has given her a chance to live in safe, comfy Wiley City, Cara will do anything to stick around.

I read this (via a review copy provided by the publisher) in preparation for voting in the Hugo awards. And while this book was enjoyable at the end, the setup takes FOREVER. Yes, there's some sprinkling of Checkov's guns all about, but it's a SPRINKLING. There's a lot of trips between places, getting little tidbits of plot and the underlying conspiracy, but it's a trickle. So, I'm afraid it did end up a bit far down on my ranked voting. But, it is ranked, so who knows!
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Great concept, needs additional worldbuilding and introductory material - seems confusing at times regarding the characters and relationships between them
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4 Stars - Dark and gritty with great writing

Cara traverses the multiverse for a living, being one of few people very suitable for this job because she is dead on most of the other versions of Earth that can be visited. Because coming to a world where one already exists ends rather deadly - the universe doesn't like that kind of redundancy, apparently. The reason why Cara is pretty rare on other worls is because she did not grow up in the privileged city but in Ashtown on its outskirts, where life is hard (as are its inhabitants), the environment poisonous and laws are made by the reigning warlord.

It is this juxtaposition of Cara, who has grown up in a very harsh world, trying to make it in the squeaky clean, rich and shiny world that pays her bills that provides the foundation for the story. Who wouldn't want to earn the right to stay forever in a place where the sun, the plants, the soil, the warlord won't kill you eventually. And while this is science fiction on the surface, it is at heart a deep look into privilege, racism, ineqality and into how the circumstances in which you grow up make you the person who you are.
The setting of "The Space Between Worlds" is post-apocalyptic and it's really dark and truly gritty. Maybe a bit too dark for my personal taste when I was rather in the mood for something lighter, but that is hardly something I can blame the book for.

The writing I loved: it is beautiful and very sharp and this one is definitely on the literary side of the genre. The worldbuilding makes you work a little bit for piecing the bits of information together but it is by no means inaccessible. The plot isn't simple or straightforward and does meander a bit, but I thought that the pacing worked really well and enjoyed how the narrative unfolded. There were several unexpected developments for me and I always wanted to know how things would continue. The second half picked up in speed for me, or maybe I had just become used to the dark tone by then.

Oh, and I really want to give a shout out to the beautiful and very fitting cover!

Actually, this was on my TBR anyway, so I was very happy to receive a review copy from Random House via NetGalley. In any case, this is my honest opinion which I provide voluntarily, thank you very much!
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I received this as part of the 2022 Hugo Awards Voter's Packet.  I am thankful that the publisher gave us a copy of the novel so that I am able to be a fully informed voter.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be looking forward to Micaiah Johnson's next book.
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