I like to think I’m a big science fiction fan but I tend to favor what’s probably better considered to be light science fiction. The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett is precisely the kind of light science fiction that I love. While it delves into the science and philosophy of a potential future for human kind—and how we might easily become almost entirely wiped out as a species—the real focus of the novel is the emotional side, the personal side, the human side that remains and endeavors to survive against all odds.
Jamie, like the entire human population scattered across the inhabited planets, has been at the mercy of a devastating virus that spreads quickly and leaves nothing but dust in its wake… except for those zero point zero zero zero zero one percent who somehow manage to survive and recover. The planet where she’s been living and working for a few months to hide from some personal (relationship) troubles is on the outskirts though and didn’t have a large population to begin with. Jamie’s panic lasts a few days as she makes her way to a port town and tries to send a signal to see if there are any other survivors out there. She doesn’t have to wait long and soon she has joined several others on their way to the capital planets and eventually back to Earth itself. But as survivors gather in larger and larger numbers, the underlying issues of the society that’s been wiped out prove to have survived the virus along with them.
So much of the novel is based around Jamie’s personal story, both her life before the virus and trying to piece together her present in the wake of the virus’ destruction. While that personal story is compelling on its own, the ethical issues surrounding the survivors and the possibilities they all see for the future are what I found most engaging in The Space Between the Stars. The flaws and injustices of the human order that sent people out to live among the stars in the first place are stronger and more persistent than Jamie realized. The question of choice permeates the text and shows that even those who purport to believe in people’s inherent right to choose the life they want to live can be complicated when it comes to supporting others’ decisions. Who decides if and when “the greater good” supersedes others’ rights and freedoms? What about those who choose to be subservient to those around them? Do obligations to a hypothetical future generation outweigh the rights of a living generation? Can there even be obligations to a hypothetical future generation since it doesn’t exist yet?
Most of the relationships that develop—or that we see and hear glimpses of, either through Jamie’s memories or the related tales of others—thrive or falter around the roles of faith, trust, and love. Jamie can’t help but wonder and maybe hope that her boyfriend, Daniel, survived too though she knows they had personal issues threatening their relationship even before the virus struck. Among other survivors are some who’ve known each other longer than Jamie realizes and new acquaintances who quickly become family now that so many of them are all alone—even several of them prove challenging to get along with for any length of time.
Though we’re (hopefully) a ways away from the horrifying circumstances that provide the basis for Anne Corlett’s The Space Between the Stars, the themes and questions addressed in the novel can and should be explored in the present.
The Space Between the Stars will be available for purchase on June 13, 2017.