The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Humans can access the multiverse, but only universes where the traveler’s counterpart is dead. Traversers are people with high death rates in other worlds, selected from the lower classes who have survived war and poverty against the odds. Cara is one of these Traversers. After making a world-shaking discovery on a parallel universe, she can’t view her job the same way again.
Queer, dystopian, science fiction
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
The Space Between Worlds is a refreshing sci-fi which puts the voices of the marginalized at its center. The protagonist is a queer Black woman, a highly underrepresented demographic. Economic inequality is a driving force behind the plot, as well as explorations of how our circumstances and choices shape how we become. The same person can be wildly different in other universes depending on the choices of themselves, their families, and whether they were raised in wealth or poverty.
Cara explores the result of her abusive relationship with a powerful man when traveling to other universes and the different outcomes that resulted. People she never could have imagined could do great good or great evil surprise her on other worlds, including herself.
It’s relatively short for a science fiction novel, but packed with suspense and heart. Its premise is utilized in a creative and exciting way. The ending pages were incredibly moving and reflective of the nature of relationships, choices, and love.
A tense dystopian novel exploring class division and the power of choices in a unique style that sets it apart from its predecessors. A strong debut.