A Character Exploration That’s Overshadowed By Unanswered Questions

cover of The space between the stars

Anne Corlett’s first novel is a character exploration i that wants to be more that what it is but can’t decide on what that looks like.

Sometimes stories include elements from other genres but their inclusion dilutes the main story.

That’s the case with The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett.

We follow Jamie Allenby, a veterinarian on a distant planet. In Allenby’s world, humans are an interplanetary species after Earth became too crowded.

Allenby survives an apocalyptic event and searches for other survivors. She joins an eclectic group of people and their search takes them to other planets and new challenges.

While it sounds like a survival story like The Martian, The Space Between the Stars focuses on the author’s exploration of Allenby’s insecurities, past trauma and shortcomings.

But Corlett doesn’t leave it as just an exploration of her main character. The story includes a dystopian government and poorly explained science fiction elements.

Neither the authoritarian government nor sci-fi elements are given much attention. Since this is a character exploration, you can argue the government shouldn’t get more attention outside of Allenby’s interactions with it.

You could also argue the space travel shouldn’t be explained either since the main character wouldn’t understand how the ship could travel vast distances in mere days.

The same can be said about the story’s deadly virus. Allenby wouldn’t know how it turns people to dust in three days. Since it’s not explained, the virus’ effects seem more convenient than anything else.

There’s also philosophical and religious questions. The questions fit with the author’s character deconstruction, but like items above, they don’t go any deeper than a random shower thought.

Those elements raise distracting questions about the world Corlett builds in this novel. Questions with answers that readers might find more interesting than Allenby’s internal struggles.

The questions may be a distraction or you might gloss right over them. One thing is certain – the story is predictable.

Every event outside of the character’s deconstruction has a predictable end. The secondary love story, the obstacles on other planets, and the final conflict bring no surprises or satisfying endings.

Then there’s the writing. It’s not bad, but there are recycled phrases throughout the entire book. Allenby is proverbially punched in the gut repeatedly. Another character, despite being distant and detached, has a constant smirk during his interactions with Allenby. I don’t fault Corlett as the editors should have flagged these issues.

The Space Between the Stars received praise from other sites recommending people to add this title to their summer reading list. It’s a shame I can’t do the same. I liked Corlett’s characters, their conversations, and the main idea of the book. They were enough to keep me going to the story’s end.

This is Corlett’s first novel, which is a thousand more novels than I have written. The fact that The Space Between the Stars is published is proof that she’s put more more time and effort into this novel than I have on any project I’ve ever done. So I don’t raise these issues lightly.

The issues raised in this review doesn’t make the story unreadable. They just keep it from being what it could be. The Space Between the Stars doesn’t go to the number one spot on your reading list, but it could be a good break between other heavy hitters you’ve been looking forward to.

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