Book Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite
Category: YA Sci-fi/Fantasy Thriller
On its journey back to Earth, a deep space mining freighter is attacked. The aliens responsible are vicious, crow-like in appearance and very efficient killers. The assault leaves few survivors. Tamara, a stowaway on this ship, escapes death only when she attempts to communicate with the creatures using words from their own language. Once taken captive, Tamara must learn more words and submit to the aliens’ demands if she is to survive. Driven by her belief that Gub (a small child she helped raise on the freighter) is still alive somewhere out there, Tamara endures many horrors in the hope that she might somehow escape and begin her search for him.
If you like sci-fi laced with edge-of-your-seat thrills and action, then Cally Black’s Ampersand Prize-winning novel is a must read. The word ‘genre-bending’ seems to crop up frequently in conversations surrounding this book. After reading In the Dark Spaces, I can certainly see why. This novel is difficult to categorise. On the one hand it’s a science fiction thriller, but it’s also a hostage/survival story. It’s got straight-up action sequences and the drama feels very much like what you’d find in a tale about the American frontier or the Australian settlers—except it’s in space.
Tamara’s story is one of survival and explores the moral dilemmas faced when self-preservation conflicts with loyalty. It’s about family, belonging and bridging the (sometimes vast) gaps in communication that have, and continue to exist between cultures. By showing both sides of the coin, Cally Black allows the reader to empathise with and understand, not only the alien crow-people or Garuwa (as they come to be known), but also the money-driven mining company. The motivations and consequences of failure that each side face is very real, and Tamara experiences the grey area that exists between the often black and white arguments for and against war.
If it weren’t for a few scenes in this book, I would be happy to recommend this for younger readers but due to the violence, it’s more suited to 14+. Basically, if you’re a little squeamish when it comes to violence, tread with caution.
Cally Black’s In the Dark Spaces is a well-paced story with a strong, original voice and believable characters. Tamara, with her limited yet insightful view of her world, will stay with you long after you’ve read this one.
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Published: 1 August 2017