‘When three people suffer strokes after seeing dazzling lights over Edinburgh, then awake completely recovered, they’re convinced their ordeal is connected to the alien creature discovered on a nearby beach…‘
– The Space Between Us
[ About The Space Between Us ]
Connecting will change everything…
Lennox is a troubled teenager with no family. Ava is eight months pregnant and fleeing her abusive husband. Heather is a grieving mother and cancer sufferer. They don’t know each other, but when a meteor streaks over Edinburgh, all three suffer instant, catastrophic strokes…
…only to wake up the following day in hospital, miraculously recovered.
When news reaches them of an octopus-like creature washed up on the shore near where the meteor came to earth, Lennox senses that some extra-terrestrial force is at play. With the help of Ava, Heather and a journalist, Ewan, he rescues the creature they call ‘Sandy’ and goes on the run.
But they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the alien … close behind are Ava’s husband, the police and a government unit who wants to capture the creature, at all costs. And Sandy’s arrival may have implications beyond anything anyone could imagine…
[ My Review ]
The Space Between Us by Doug Johnstone published with Orenda Books on March 2nd and is described as ‘an adrenaline-soaked, deeply humane, life-affirming first-contact novel from one of Scotland’s most revered authors…‘ It is the first book in a proposed new series and is the first step into the sci-fi genre for Doug Johnstone, albeit he does have a PhD in Nuclear Physics.
Set in Edinburgh, The Space Between Us is the story of three people who become connected in the most bizarre fashion. Lennox, Ava and Heather are all facing challenges in their lives that appear to be insurmountable. On the same evening, all three are in the midst of possible life-changing events when they sense something in the air and see an extraordinary scene in the skies above them. The next all three know is that they wake up in a hospital ward, all having suffered a stroke, but all now remarkably unaffected and fully recovered. Many others are left affected by this strange phenomenon but for Lennox, Ava and Heather, life is going to get very very strange.
All three feel a compulsive and inexplicable draw to a beach where an octopus-like creature has been washed up. There is media curiosity but, in most cases, it is thought to be just an odd looking creature that needs disposing of. But there are others out there who think differently. Lennox, Ava and Heather put together a plan to rescue this creature and what follows is a race against time as they all fear for their own safety and the safety of this creature they have affectionately named Sandy.
As they criss-cross the Scottish landscape, they are faced with multiple dangers. Ava is heavily pregnant with an abusive husband on her tail, Heather is carrying a terminal diagnosis and Lennox is a lost boy without any clear purpose in life until now. A motley crew, they call on anyone they can to help them on this insane journey and start to make discoveries about themselves, each other and about an alien creature looking to find home.
The Space Between Us did remind me a little bit of that classic Stephen Spielberg movie, ET. A cute alien trying to reconnect with their own, who gets assistance from a couple of humans. These humans understand and are willing to do anything to save this creature from the experimental hands of the scientists and government officials. All written with a few very modern twists, no bicycles in this one!
Sandy manages to communicate with Lennox initially which guides all three in the direction where Sandy needs to go. As the pace ramps up, danger lurks at every corner. But through connections and understanding, Lennox, Ava and Heather realise the enormity of what they are involved with and the consequences of every action they take or do not take.
I admire Doug Johnstone for diving into a different genre. I really enjoy his writing across his Skelf series, and his book Breakers is one that I still recommend to people as an exceptional read. I’m not normally a science fiction reader and I chose to take a gamble with The Space Between Us, as I really like Doug Johnstone’s style, but I just didn’t love this one as much as other folk. It has been selected for the BBC 2 Between the Covers book club with Sara Cox, which is great news, and confirms really that, for me, this is simply a case of the wrong reader for the book. If you are Sci-Fi fan, please do check this book out, as Doug Johnstone is a wonderful writer and I’m sure you will love The Space Between Us as much as others have.
[ Bio ]
Doug Johnstone is the author of fourteen previous novels, most recently Black Hearts (2022). The Big Chill (2020) was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and three of his books, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), have been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.
He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade, and has been an arts journalist for over twenty years.
Doug is a songwriter and musician with six albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of writers. He’s also co-founder of the Scotland Writers Football Club, and has a PhD in nuclear physics.
The Space between Us is Doug’s first foray into science fiction.
I’m not a bit Sci-Fi reader either, Mairead. Nice review.