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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Book Review: The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

The Space Between the Stars
by Anne Corlett
June 13, 2017
Berkley- Penguin Group
368 pages
In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit...

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be.

Jamie Allenby has survived a deadly virus that spread through Earth and afterwards, through the colonized planets by humanity. Unlike most science fiction where people purposely traveled to settle other worlds, in this story most have been part of a forced emigration of so-called undesirables. Before the virus, Jamie had spent over thirteen years with her lover, Daniel, on one of the highly populated planetary outposts. After a miscarriage she leaves Daniel for the planet Solitaire, working as a veterinarian for a ranch. 

Once the virus spreads, only 0.0001% survive. Jamie craved solitude and wide-open spaces, but this was not exactly how she wanted to receive it. Longing for human companionship, she leaves the rural farm for the space dock. There she meets up with two additional survivors: a former priest, Lowry, and a woman scientist, Rena, on a spiritual retreat. These three are picked up by a cargo ship heading back to the larger planetary outpost of Alegria.

The ship is captained by Callan and his engineer, Gracie. The administration on Alegria refuses to allow anyone to leave and is enforcing a "breeding" program, since so many children were killed in the outbreak. She also runs into Daniel.

Jamie convinces Callan and her shipmates to make a break for Earth but they have no idea what awaits them there. Will they find any survivors? Will they be faced with a new administration trying to enforce rules for humanity's survival?

If you are looking for a science fiction/dystopian full of action, spaceship battles, aliens, etc…then this book may not be your cup of tea. There is a spaceship going through outer space, there are other planets, and it takes place in the future, with a virus obviously made to kill people so completely, there is only dust left. But this is a character driven story about survival during this form of near apocalypse, and how they might get their heads and souls set right to move forward with living.

Most of the characters have some sort of baggage. Except maybe Finn, the autistic teenager—I enjoyed him. The plot was well thought out. The world-building is moderately done, but could have used more explanation and detail. The tech aspect was too skimpy for me.  I admit, Jamie did not sit well with me. She uses being broken to push away others who could be good for her. The title fits what Jamie thinks she wants: space. Space between her and relationships, space between her and her past that made her who she was before and after the virus. Space also fits other characters in this book. Space in connection to God and religion too.

I give The Space Between the Stars 3 ½ sheep.

Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
Anne is originally from the north-east, but somehow slid down the map and finished up in the south-west. She now lives near Bath with her partner and three young sons.

Anne returned to writing in 2011 after many years working as a criminal lawyer in London. This was slightly unfortunate timing, given that she was right in the middle of relocating to Somerset with her family who seemed to feel that a little less novel-writing and a little more packing might be warranted. They probably had a point.

Over the next couple of years Anne began to build a career as a freelance writer, fitting this work in around her day job as a solicitor. In 2012 she met her agent, Lisa Eveleigh, at the York Festival of Writing. Since then her work has been published in various magazines and anthologies and her short fiction has won, placed or been shortlisted in various national and international awards.

In 2014 Anne began an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her initial MA novel was put on hold after a trip back up to the Northumberland coast triggered the idea for The Space Between the Stars which was acquired by Pan Macmillan in January 2016. It is due out in hardback in Spring 2017.

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