When you write, you have to read.
That's what everyone says, but a lot of writers I know don't read all that much, they settle for watching the latest TV series or skimming over the top of the latest best sellers. The truth is, you have to read, and read thoroughly, because every once in a while, you come across a book that makes a difference in how you look at your own writing.
The Space between the Stars is such a book.
The human race is over and no one won. A killer virus came along that wiped out everyone except a very scant few, amounting to around Nought point nought nought nought one percent of the population. The virus mutates with every single victim, so even if you escaped it when you caught it the first time, stay around the virus long enough and it'll get you the second or third time. The virus leaves nothing behind, breaking down the structure of the body till only dust remains.
The idea that there's nothing left behind is central to the story, what remains when there's nothing to look for, no bodies left behind, nothing at all? It begins with Jamie Allenby, a vet on a backwater world, waking to find that she's survived, and that her troubles are only just beginning. She sets out in search of Daniel, the man she had shared life and death with, who she'd left behind, and the forlorn hope that he might be one of the Nought point nought nought nought one who survived like her, as if love could be a defence against such a plague.
There are, of course, others that have survived the plague, and each tries to make sense of the new world in their own way. Civilisation is still there, all the good and bad parts of it, and mention of a class system still being in place resonated to my English sensibilities. But what made this book for me is the character of Jamie, a straight talking woman with all the complexities of a real person, who finds that not every she'd hoped for was in fact all she wanted. The places they go are only touched upon, but the characters shine in every scene and I wanted them to succeed, to learn what they really want and then to get it.
That, and I didn't see the twist at the end, and I love it when any story catches me like that.
From a writers point of view, what I got most from this was that characters can hold a story far more than a scene, and that if you write your characters with their own intents and purposes, they become so much more alive.
Recommended, really good book, I'm looking forwards to seeing what comes next from Anne Corlett