The Space Between Us – Doug Johnston

Published By: Orenda Books
Pages: 305
Released On: 02/03/2023

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…


This wasn’t necessarily my kind of book, and it wouldn’t have been one I chose to read if I hadn’t seen it on Between the Covers.

There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a bizarre book. It’s very good and unexpectedly moving and touching, but to explain it to someone else makes you sound a bit mad.

I love this sense of the outsider as the protagonists. There’s a 16-year-old boy whose run away from his children’s home, a heavily pregnant woman escaping her abusive husband, and a dying, grieving mother. Not exactly the pinnacle of heroes, but I think it’s because of that, they become our heroes. They’re the everyday person, people you often look over, but they’re tasked with this out-of-this-world situation, and they really excel.

I enjoyed the three main characters of Lennox, Ava, and Heather. They’re all marvellously developed, all with their pasts, their reasons for running away, and each of their individual story arcs are great, and work well with the others. The creation of Sandy is exceptional. He’s a familiar creature but in an unfamiliar world. The idea of a space octopus is ridiculous, and yet it feels like such a believable creature. Doug has really thought about the way it communicates – even if it did take some getting used to – how it uses its body, how it can heal and how it can harm, and how it can love.

I liked that it was full of short chapters. I am not a fan of really long ones because I like to read to the end of a chapter in the bath or before bed, so I appreciated the 3-4 page chapters.

Yes it is very much science-fiction/fantasy, but at it’s heart, it feels very human and very real. There’s some hard-hitting topics in it too, including domestic abuse, single parenthood, violence, cancer, loss, grief, fostering etc. which adds the realistic element to this fantastical situation.

At first I was confused at some of the reviews that call it “life affirming” and “a tale of wonder and hope”. I thought it was just going to be a bit of an odd book about a space jellyfish. But it is definitely more than that. It’s about finding your people, finding where you belong among your friends and your family, and even strangers. It’s about being involved in things bigger than yourself. About the ends you’ll go to for the right thing, even if the journey seems morally wrong at times.

I’m not a sci-fi reader generally. I can’t even think of another sci-fi book I might have read. I still can’t say it’s a genre I would be thoroughly interested in reading, but this is a good entrance into the genre. I’ve also not read a Doug Johnstone book before so I have nothing to compare it too, but from my limited understanding of sci-fi, I felt he managed to find the right balance between believable and fantasy.

It doesn’t really need a sequel, and yet I could see how a sequel could explore more of this fantasy world Doug has created and I would be interested to see how it developed.

What I will say is this book feels completely unique. And I agree with other reviews that say they could see this as a TV series or film. It’s got that jeopardy, that road trip, that relationship, that sense of wonder that would do well on the big screen.

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