The Space Between Worlds
Author: Micaiah Johnson
Publication Date: 04 August 2020
Genre: Adult Fiction – Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey
An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
When it comes to sci-fi, more often than not, I am let down. You see a lot of authors fall back on overused tropes and/or people misuse scientific terminology, which as a scientist makes me immediately shut down. This is NOT one of those types of books. This is literally the new voice in sci-fi that I have been anxiously hoping and waiting for.
Cara has the ability to travel across the multiverse. There are 382 worlds in total. The caveat? You can only travel to the worlds if you no longer exist on that world. So the Eldridge Institute hires transversers like Cara, Black and from a poor backgrounds that, statistically speaking, had slim chance of survival anyways.
The needed trash people. Poor black and brown people. People somehow on the “wrong side” of the wall, even though they were the ones who built it. People brought for labor, or come for refuge, or who were here before the first neoliberal surveyed this land and thought to build a paradise. People who’d already thought this was paradise. They needed my people. They needed me.
This paragraph in chapter one hit me like a ton of bricks and set the tone for the entire story. I was so blown away that this author included this paragraph that so succinctly described Earth zero. I just wasn’t expecting this sort of brutal honesty in sci-fi, and I immediately understood that this book would be unlike any other in this genre.
I don’t want to comment on anything in regards to plot for this one because I honestly that that you should go into this one blind. Roughly speaking, there are multiple worlds existing at once hence the multiverse, but in terms of what happens on each of those, you need to experience that alongside Cara.
Let’s talk characters.
Our protagonist Cara is a Black, bisexual female who literally will do whatever it takes to survive especially she refuses to die the way that her mother did. She’s sarcastic, rough around the edges, but true to those that she cares about. Cara knows that she needs to make it order to finally become a citizen and be safe for once in her life.
As far as secondary characters go, all of them (Dell, Ester, Jean, Adam, and Nik Nik) were well developed and fascinating. We learned each of their backstories as well as their lives on the different Earths. Never once did I think that these characters deviated from or slowed the plot down. If anything, I was so curious as to how all of it would play out.
This book does an incredible job of tackling the intersectionality of race, class, and identity and it does it in a way that reminds you that even when we advance in science and technology that these themes and problems are not going to magically disappear.
Honestly, there is so much more that I could talk about in this amazing book, but I will wrap up with just pick this one up and read it. Johnson is a desperately needed breath of fresh air in science-fiction, and I cannot wait to see what is next.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.