I received The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett after winning a giveaway on Goodreads. I had initially added the book after being intrigued by the synopsis. Settling colonies in space, a devastating virus, few survivors, a possible sinister government plot...all of these things got me interested to see where this new author was going to take the already thoroughly explored post-apocalyptic storyline.
The Situation: Jamie wakes up on the planet Soltaire after being bedridden due to a severe illness. The virus had grabbed hold on everyone across space. Earth was hit hard, but so were all of the settlements full of those that were forced off of the overpopulated planet, along with those who voluntarily left. Jamie fell into the latter category, but now none of that seems to matter. After remembering where she is and what happened, Jamie also remembers that the virus left few survivors. According to the statistics, only 0.0001% of those hit would survive. If that is true, then Jamie could not expect to find anyone else on the ranch she lived and worked as a veterinarian. And after a brief and frantic search that yields no signs of life, Jamie begins to see that sometimes there are worse things than dying. Fortunately, people do show up, and then a ship arrives to take them all to Earth, possibly proving that the statistics were not as accurate as Jamie had feared.
The Problem: There may be a small number of survivors, but it seems that humanity is intent on carrying on with its many bad habits. Everyone seems to have a different idea as to how society should proceed. And the more stops the ship makes on other colonies, the more unsure Jamie is of what the future will hold. Even before the virus hit, her life did not have a clear direction, although it was stable. Now, she finds herself curious about the people she left behind, but she is not the only one with a past, and also not the only one who may be searching for someone or something. The further the group travels, the more tension there seems to be, leaving Jamie to wonder if there was a point to anyone surviving such a catastrophic event.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a science fiction novel with an undetermined date as far as where to place it in our own timeline. The assumption is that it would be set in the future, but I could not be sure. It could easily have been placed in present-day, making it a reality where we as human beings long ago decided to send people to colonize in outer space. But there is talk of overcrowding on Earth leading to that decision, as well as much discussion about certain populations being forced to move, while there are others who also volunteered. Jamie is one who volunteered, and though her placement in society would have guaranteed that she never would have been forced, she resents those who made the decision to put such a policy in place. Throughout the novel, the subject of population control comes up quite a bit, along with the decision to reproduce, and how many see it as a duty, especially after a deadly virus has ravaged most of humanity. The novel also looks at how even those who choose to have children may not be able to, which can lead to a manic and desperate mindset where people make decisions they would not otherwise make. Before the virus hit, everyone Jamie meets had a previous life, but now none of it seems to matter. And those who attempt to hold onto their past end up the least equipped to properly move forward.
My Verdict: There are many things I enjoyed about this book, specifically that it was science fiction I could follow and understand. Also, the descriptions of the various settings that are visited manage to paint incredibly vivid pictures of lands and worlds that may be barren of humans, but are otherwise fine. Even the time spent on the ship while traveling through space is well-described, giving the reader a decent picture of what that would look like. With that being said, if there was one thing that threatened my enjoyment of the story it was the main character. Jamie is understandably struggling to come to terms with life after the virus. There are so many unknown factors, and she is traveling on a spaceship with strangers while they all attempt to figure things out. But she is so incredibly self-righteous about every little topic, and frequently gets mad at others for being the same way. She sees her way of moving forward as the only way, even though she is not even sure what her plan is. Her desires change at the turn of a page, and she finds even the smallest reasons to be frustrated with someone. Again, it is a stressful situation, but the protagonist made the narrative more annoying instead of intriguing or interesting.
Favorite Moment: When Jamie and her new friends manage to escape a settlement that would have them stay and be forced into whatever roles the government believes would suit them best.
Favorite Character: Marcus Lowry is a former Catholic priest who always takes the role of peacemaker. It is obvious he has his own secrets (they all do), but he understands that if society is going to rebuild itself, everyone is going to have to get along and be patient with each other.
Recommended Reading: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel covers the days just before a deadly disease hits Earth, and continues until decades later when society is slowly rebuilding itself. There is no colonizing of other planets or space travel, but people must decide how they will move forward now that everything has changed.