I can’t lie – it was the beautiful cover that caught my eye – and then that quirky blurb nailed it, as I was looking for more science fiction goodness with a bit of a difference. And I got that, alright…
BLURB: Reasons Cara has died:
– The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her
– One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her
– She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop
– She was left alone, and a stranger came along
– The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way
– The runners came for her mother and she was in the way
– The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way
– The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found
– Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever
Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight
But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home. But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
REVIEW: I loved Cara, who is a gutsy survivor with a grim past which defines her and makes her valuable, giving her a lifestyle she couldn’t have dreamt of. She travels to parallel worlds where there isn’t her equivalent, because that would kill her, so she regularly visits other Earths where there are characters she grew up with – in some of them she has a surviving family – as well as those where her murderer thrives. Having been the victim of violent, abusive behaviour and regularly gone hungry and thirsty, she is keen to stay employed by the Eldridge Corporation. However, she becomes increasingly unhappy in the direction that the company is going. It doesn’t help that the role of traversers – people like her, who travel to parallel worlds – is steadily being pared down to a handful of operatives and the rumour is that in a few months, their job will be automated.
The worldbuilding is well done. I liked the premise and while there isn’t shedloads of science, the explanations offered are all cohesive and make sense. Cara can only travel to 372 of the possible 380 worlds available – and there aren’t more available, as those that become too misaligned from Earth Zero, the original world where the found of the Eldridge company made his breakthrough, they disappear and are no longer reachable. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is far too wide between Ashtown and Wiley City. Climate refugees and the descendants of the people end up in Ashtown, scrabbling to survive. Inevitably they are black and horribly poor, so are kept out of Wiley City by ferocious security. While there is trading between the two communities, it is limited and access to clean water and decent food in Ashtown depends on who you know and how strong you are.
The dystopian world was plausible and well depicted, though not overly original – that was left to the plot, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The dynamic Johnson sets up, where Cara’s traversing uncovers some unexpected surprises that forces her to re-examine her priorities, works well. I thought Cara’s harsh past was very well handled – it could have so easily tipped into victimhood and it didn’t, though do be warned, this book does deal with violent relationship abuse, in amongst the general murder and mayhem. I also liked the hopeless longing that portrays Cara’s romantic yearnings throughout most of the book, too.
The denouement is effectively handled, with plenty of tension as the stakes continue to grow – until the climactic ending, where all the plotpoints are satisfactorily tied up. Overall, this is a really strong debut novel and Micaiah Johnson is certainly One To Watch. Recommended for fans of multiverse science fiction in a near-future era. While I obtained an arc of The Space Between Worlds from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.