“The Space Between the Stars” (Berkley), by Anne Corlett.
Jamie Allenby, veterinary scientist on the planet Soltaire, has a lot on her mind in “The Space Between the Stars,” a debut novel by Anne Corlett.
She’s not sure if she misses Daniel, her lover of 13 years. His last known address was on another planet. When they separated, she told him she needed space. Now she has more space than she bargained for because she may be the only survivor of an interstellar supervirus.
Finding other survivors is Jamie’s first concern. Then she needs to get to Earth. Jamie and Daniel once promised to meet on the Northumberland coast of England in the event of an apocalypse. She must fulfill that pledge.
But she’s reluctant. Daniel wasn’t all that great. Jamie ponders her relationship troubles with Daniel when more pressing problems need to be solved. Like finding food, staying warm, rebuilding a culture. No, it’s Daniel who is on her mind. Daniel. His name — in a single-word sentence — plunks again and again. Daniel. This becomes tedious.
Fortunately, Jamie isn’t the only survivor so other characters provide relief from her Daniel obsession.
She makes her way to a spaceport. She and the others hitch a ride on a spaceship. They make another stop and find someone unexpected. Daniel. In all his plunking glory.
Corlett sets up a hero’s journey narrative so at this point Jamie, our hero, is tempted to abandon her quest. After all, she’s found Daniel, not on Earth, but on another planet called Alegria. Why go on? That isn’t sufficiently answered, but it’s a hero’s journey, so she must get to Earth. She must go on. She must gain wisdom and mastery.
In sci-fi, the science doesn’t need to be fully spelled out or even plausible, but some of the fun is missing when it lacks this much substance. Corlett has spaceships travel magically between worlds without explanation except that this is the distant future. The supervirus turns victims to dust.
We learn that colonization of other worlds involved forced emigration and that authorities applied travel IDs onto people’s ring fingers with lasers. We don’t learn much, however, about how that history played out or how it affects Jamie.
In short, “The Space Between the Stars” disappoints. As a beach read, it’s too easy to put down in favor of a nap in the sun.