The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

I was intrigued by The Space Between the Stars mostly because of the interesting concept/hook: virus threatens human existence so how do the few survivors react, order and civilization versus utopia and anarchy, etc. After reading it, I felt it had some promise but plenty of weaknesses.  For example, I felt like the lead character was prickly and angst ridden to the point of annoyance. On the other hand, give Corlett credit for creating a character whose personality and backstory are consistent and likely realistic. I also felt like the faith/religious element was odd, nebulous and hard to follow.

It was interesting enough that I kept reading but just didn’t quite grab me. Perhaps it is not quite my genre; a little too much romance and family drama for my tastes. Plus. lots of interesting philosophical questions bouncing around but not a lot of answers and at the expense of the plot and character development.

A few critics had very different reactions as well.

Marilyn Dahl at Shelf Awareness was full of praise:

Anne Corlett has taken the themes of apocalypse, people attempting to create Utopia but unleashing Armageddon, population engineering and breeding programs, and put her particular stamp on the familiar. The Space Between the Stars is a sci-fi story laced with homey details like e-readers and jigsaw puzzles–there are no esoteric descriptions of warp drives or biodomes or aliens. But there is adventure, there is romance, there is self-discovery. Jamie looks at a blue sky, which “felt like a lie, after so much time spent up above it, in the black of space. It was just something to hide beneath, to avoid seeing how wrenched and scattered among the stars they all really were.” But she finds, in this intriguing and wise story, what can fill the space between the stars.

Kirkus? Uh, not so much:

In the hands of someone with more literary skill, this story could have been something akin to Station Eleven in space, but it isn’t even close. The prose is insipid, with some eye-rollingly trite sentences, such as, “Home’s what’s left over when you’ve figured out all the places you don’t want to be.” Protagonist Jamie is staggeringly unlikable. For instance, she bemoans a past miscarriage, then reveals she abhorred her unborn child. Further flashbacks reveal that she’d only gotten pregnant because Daniel—the same man she’s desperately seeking—wanted a child. Worse, there’s virtually no science in this science fiction. The aforementioned virus, which inexplicably turns human bodies into dust, laughably calls to mind Daffy Duck being disintegrated by Marvin the Martian—although the science fiction of Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century is arguably better than anything here. The worldbuilding is dropped into the story in steaming piles of infodump that raise more questions than they answer. And after Jamie uncovers the absurdly obvious origins of the deadly virus (which had been telegraphed from the very beginning), the entire story is tied up in a big, banal bow.

Terrible science and even worse fiction.

I didn’t love it like Shelf Awareness but I didn’t hate it quite like Kirkus.  To me it didn’t live up to its promise but get some credit for the concept.

The Space Between the Stars Book Cover The Space Between the Stars
Anne Corlett
Fiction
Penguin
2017
368

When the world ends, where will you go? 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...

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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