Cover Image: The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds

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This book was very interesting, I love how there are many other dimensions instead of just one. I really liked the characters.
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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.
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Johnson's "The Space Between Worlds" is a beautifully-crafted science fiction novel that breaks all the rules.  The golden rule of time travel has always been avoiding meeting yourself at all costs.  Such a time travel paradox can cause all hell to break loose and often does.  The Space Between Worlds is not a time travel story.  Indeed, all time flows at the same rate.  Instead, it posits an interdimensional transfer between dimensions, between worlds, between realities, and going from Earth 0 to Earth 2 leaves open the possibility of meeting one's self.  But, there are not just two Earths, but infinite worlds, "worlds upon worlds into infinity," and approximately 382 alternate Earths have been discovered.  That's 382 versions of one's self to encounter and cause all kinds of paradoxes.  

No two of the same can exist in the same space.  There just isn't room.  Eldrige Corporation has solved that problem.  The traversers who go into the spaces between reality and enter alternate worlds simply can't be ordinary folks living ordinary lives.  They have to be people who have been living such dangerous high-wire-act lives that they have died in most alternate realities.  Since they do not exist in almost any of the 382 possibilities, there is little chance of their exploding into nothingness.  They live with enough risk to have died over and over again.  Their very survival in even one world and ability to travel to others is a miracle.

Cara is such a high-wire act person.  In this Earth, Earth 0, she lives out in the desert wastelands where they have to scavenge for a living outside the mighty walls of the cities, out there where a psychotic warlord rules all, a psychotic warlord (Nik Nik) who thinks she is his plaything and pretends to drown her in the mud over and over.  She is a desperate one who takes chances no ordinary person would take.  And for that reason, she is the most amazing traverser ever.  But what happens when she comes across her doppelgänger, her twin, her duplicate lying in the riverbed.

Not only does Cara break the golden rules of never meeting one's self, but she interferes in the affairs of alternate earths.  It is wonderful how Johnson has taken many of the problems and paradoxes of time travel stories and twisted them into this alternate reality story.  There is also great world building here from the desert wasteland dwellers (Ashland) where runners race across the sands in giant vehicles to the religions flourishing in the wastelands.  

The beginning can be a bit confusing because the reader is not let into the secrets of the interdimensional travel and the rules until later.  Indeed, it is not clear what the purpose of the corporation poking into the interdimensional jet stream is.  Nevertheless, it will all become clear later on.  Cara finds almost religious satisfaction in traveling between worlds, explaining how gratifying it is about going places where she is dead and touching things she was never meant to see.  She also gets to meet people who died long ago in some realities.

The writing in this novel is excellent.  The pace is tremendous and it is hard to put it down.  Few have done such a great job of combining hard science fiction ideas with interpersonal relations and allowing both to flourish within the story confines.  The relationship between Cara and Dell is cleverly drawn, beginning with the description of it being a section of the sky utterly dead and empty and that it is two parallel universes too close to touching and that there is a cold dark between them "that three suns couldn't light."  

The space between worlds describes the darkness Cara travels through and hopes to survive.  It's worth it though because she knows what waits on the other side.  She is an amazing character who says that asking for things is like drinking glass shards.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of this amazing novel.  Can't wait to see what else this author has up her sleeve.
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