Book Review: The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Penguin Random House

Summary:  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...

It's not out until June but i'm going on the record now: Read This! I finished reading it and needed a couple days to think about what I wanted to say. I love that! The handful of characters we follow are fascinating & infuriating as they reveal themselves & i still held hope for them.

Jamie, our main character was often remote and she displayed a penchant for harsh judgment without insight or even thought of the point of view of others but as she had intimacy issues, it rang true and made for an interesting portrayal. She irritated me but she also fascinated me and always made me want to know more. She learned and evolved. I was glad of that. All of the main supporting characters changed as the group shared experiences and moved through the story. Still, the other character I found most compelling was Rena. She annoyed me but she, like Jamie, made me think about what about her was bothering me so deeply and what I felt should be done with her in such a situation. I felt revulsion, sympathy and even pity for her so I'd say she was well done. Definitely one of the portrayals that will remain with me for some time. Jamie and Rena are both looking for patterns and meaning along the way. Jamie, in people around her and the known world and Rena in God and the non-corporeal.

At times this scratched at the back of my brain & recalled the feeling of reading Through the Looking Glass with all the stops made & people met along the way. it felt surreal but there always remained a grounding current that kept things in the realm of the possible. It certainly made me think about what kind of social group would i want to be a part of in such an instance. Highlight Spoiler:  This book also spoke to me on a maternal front with Jamie's loss & I appreciated that thread. Still, she was different enough from me in her reactions to it, that I could read about her journey at a comfortable distance. One niggle was in that she mentions that she "miscarried" but for as far along as she was said to have been in her pregnancy & having delivered, she had a stillborn baby. I loved the portrayal of the loss but if miscarriage is the general taboo topic, I feel stillbirth is even more unmentioned & unmentionable. In point of fact, they aren't the same thing.

I wanted more explanatory science but there was so much more here, that while I could've gone another 100 pages with some intensive world-building, I realized that this book is telling a different story and it's a worthy one. Some of my questions: What kind of propulsion are these interplanetary capable ships using? What fuel are they using; it seems they burn through it quickly necessitating refueling often and how are they reaching planets so quickly (within a day(s)? What exactly is the mechanism and trajectory of the virus (because it's endpoint is so very unique? How did the research remain concealed given its original purpose? How far from our present is this taking place because they have references that are so grounded in our present day memory (Nazis, Chernobyl, Post-Its, etc). It's like Elon got us off Earth but it didn't quite save us from an extinction level event. Even with these things that left me wanting, there are plenty of other pre & post-apocalyptic themes covered: religious zealotry, female vulnerability in all male settings, martial law/police states, forced breeding plans, caste systems and even eugenics in targeted socioethnic groups.

I very much enjoyed this, but i'm a little sad that I've already finished what will surely be a great summer read. I know, #readerproblems. In book world I've seen some thinking this is a YA title. The MC is 38 so... it's not. If you like your extinction event stories on the quieter side, like Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel , this is a good read. If you're about watching what remains of humanity trying to more broadly, work out where civilization goes after an extinction event, like Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, this could be in your book match (without the scientific info-dumps). This is going on my favourites shelf and I don't do that often. Recommended. Highly.

Favorite quote- "Life is its own point," Lowry said. "It's just a series of moments, some of them memorable, some of them not. There's no redemption but what we're prepared to grant ourselves. No point when we're finished becoming what we;re going to be. There's just this breath, and the next one, and the next one. Each one of those breaths, each of those moments helps to shape us. And then there's other people. Sometimes we figure out a way of rubbing along together. Sometimes we break someone else, or they break us."

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for the Advance Reader Copy.

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