Read this book: The Space Between the Stars

“Life is its own point. It’s just a series of moments, some of them memorable, some of them not. There’s no redemption but what we’re prepared to grant ourselves. No point when we’re finished becoming what we’re going to be. There’s just this breath, and the next one, and the next one. Each of those breaths, each of those moments, help shape us.”

The Space Between the Stars

This bit of gorgeous nihilism is to me the heart of Anne Corlett’s sci-fi novel The Space Between the Stars, the story of a group of plague survivors: the .0001 percent or so of humanity spread across several worlds who were not turned to dust.

I didn’t plan on reading a book about a plague, not right now. Living through a much milder one than in this book is about all I wanted to do with anything plague related.

Once I started reading, it was hard for me to stop.

The Space Between the Stars is centered on Jamie, a thirtysomething veterinarian who is estranged from her long-term boyfriend, isolated from her own historical grief, and the only survivor on a small colony world.

Or so she thinks.

Plague stories can go in several directions. The Walking Dead was once my favorite TV show. Now just a droning, repetitive PSA that humans can be monsters too (ok, I get it!). When Jamie finds other survivors, I was expecting some Walking Dead-ish human vs. human confrontations.

Not so much.

I won’t get into spoilers, but a search for survivors–and her boyfriend–takes on some twists. Not too many, though. The Space Between the Stars is not a hard sci-fi novel (spacecraft can traverse great distances in unbelievably short spans of time). It is also not a thriller.

Instead, it’s more of a character study. On that note, I found Jamie wholly unlikable. She is prickly. She snaps at people. She is self righteous. She’s a horrible communicator. But Corlett does a great job in showing some of the whys, and also showing how maybe Jamie doesn’t like being so flawed. So, while Jamie is unlikable, she’s relatable, if not quite sympathetic.

The Space Between the Stars is not perfect. There were things I couldn’t relate to–as an American, I don’t get the English obsession with class, which was one of the themes of this book. And I wished the sci-fi was amped up (several scenes felt too present day, and not set a century or two in the future).

Still, I was glad to be along for the ride. The writing was beautiful (almost to the point of distraction), and Corlett hit all the right emotional notes. By the end, I wanted to stay in that plague wrecked world just a little while longer.

Want to buy the world’s most haunted island?

Off the coast of Venice lies the small island of Poveglia. If you have several million lying around, it can be yours.


But there’s a catch. It comes occupied. With ghosts.

Danse_macabre_by_Michael_Wolgemut  The history of this island is fascinating. The Venetians and Genoese fought over this island in the middle ages, but the real trouble started with the arrival of the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century. Plague victims were shunted to the island and sealed off. The dead were burned on funeral pyres in the center of the island. This history was repeated when the Black Death returned in the 1600s. Thus came the legends of ghosts. (The plague peroids of European history have always fascinated me. Maybe that’s why I like zombie stories so much.)

In the late 1800s the island was home to a mental asylum (always prime breeding ground for ghosts). There were rumors of torturous dsc_0215experiments on the mentally ill performed by a doctor driven mad by ghosts. The doctor committed suicide by jumping from the hospital tower.

More recently, an American ghost hunter/tv show host claims to have been possessed by a ghost while visiting the island, and the reconstruction of the hospital stopped abruptly and the project was abandoned, with no reason given.

Now the Italian government is hoping a developer will swoop in and turn the island into a high-end resort. I can’t wait for the stories that will follow that one.

(Hospital image courtesy of