The Space Between the Stars is a fast-reading science fiction novel that is part post-apocalypse, part road trip, with a dash of Firefly (minus that Joss Whedon thing).
Humanity has spread itself out into the galaxy, via a few colonized planets, when a virus abruptly kills all but “zero point zero zero zero one” percent of the population. Individuals and small pockets of survivors must either rebuild where they are or find a way back to wherever they’re from to see what and who is left. We follow Jamie Allenby, a veterinarian, as she connects with a ragtag band of strangers to… well, what does she want to do? That’s her dilemma at the end of the world, and that’s what we get to explore in this involving story.
In a lot of post-apocalyptic material, everything is wiped out, and it’s all about survival and rebuilding. Maybe that’s the attraction for us: the past is gone in an instant, and we get to try again. In this story, the ending of the world doesn’t even accidentally solve any problems. All the real things – relationship issues, psychological hang-ups, emotional damage, whatever haunts us from our past – just keep going. As it turns out, all that human stuff is actually completely separate from the material circumstances of life as we know it: “World ended? No more infrastructure? No more government? No more supermarkets or internet? Ok – but you still hate your parents. Ok – but you still can’t handle intimacy. Ok – but you’re still an asshole.” And so on. The apocalypse won’t clean the slate for you; you clean your own slate.
Along the way, we get a kind of survey of the worst ways humanity has tried to organize itself against the apparent chaos of the universe: this group is trying fascism, that group is doing a kind of class system, and so on. (This is not done in any awkward, allegorical way – it’s just what we notice on the road trip thru the stars.) In a less personal sci-fi story, this is where we’d spend our time, hashing out the “big ideas”. Instead, Corlett goes deep into what the end of the world means for an individual, one who is not suddenly, magically freed from her previous life. The Space Between the Stars has some tense moments, but it’s more likely to put you into a self-examining, contemplative frame of mind – and will lower any personal expectations you had for the apocalypse. Go ahead and deal with your shit now.