Book Review Science Fiction

In The Dark Spaces by Cally Black

Title: IN THE DARK SPACES
Author: Cally Black
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
ISBN: 9781760128647
Genre: YA SF

Back Cover Blurb

A genre-smashing kidnapping drama about Tamara, who’s faced with an impossible choice when she falls for her captors.

Yet this is no ordinary kidnapping. Tamara has been living on a freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crow people – the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No-one has ever survived a Crow people attack, until now—and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive. 

But survival always comes at a price, and there’s no handbook for this hostage crisis. As Tamara comes to know the Crow people’s way of life, and the threats they face from humanity’s exploration into deep space, she realises she has an impossible choice to make. Should she stay as the only human among the Crows, knowing she’ll never see her family again … or inevitably betray her new community if she wants to escape?

What I Thought

In The Dark Spaces by Cally Black, is a totally immersive sci-fi adventure shaded with dark overtones. In some respects it’s also a fast paced, heart-pounding, cannot put it down thriller. And let me be the first to say, the pacing is enough to give you lactic acid build up in your muscles just sitting on the couch, reading this one. In The Dark Spaces is so well paced with each chapter smoothly flowing into the next, so that the story just sucks you along for the ride. I simply couldn’t put this one down. 

Short, sharp, event-filled chapters detail the almost none stop action as our erstwhile hero, 14 year old Tamara (Weku) an illegal stowaway aboard the ill-fated deep space hauler, Jolene, is witness to untold horrors. A Crow-like alien race attacks the freighter killing everyone aboard, except that is, Tamara and her tiny cousin, Gub. Tamara finds herself trapped in the freighter’s stores when the attack first starts, but manages to work her way back through the ship, inside the walls, unseen. A place she knows well, as they have been her hiding places for her entire short life. A life that means nothing to the freighter’s crew and owners, if they were to catch her.

It’s not the crew who catch her, though, when making her way to the kitchens to find her aunt—a cook aboard the freighter—and upon finding her dead, hides in a pantry with the defenceless Gub. But the violent enemy are going room by room, floor by floor, killing all the crew. Tamara, use to thinking on her feet to avoid encounters with the crew, has to do something. Something to distract these strange thin black aliens garbed in shiny black armour, and draw them away from the only living family she has left in a seemingly cold hearted universe. Gub. And herein lives the heart and soul of this story, just what is Tamara willing to do in order not only to save her own life, but that of a baby, to make it out alive.

Everything, is the answer. 

It is astounding what the author, Cally Black, puts Tamara through. The decisions this young teenager has to make, never mind the bitter, heartbreak choices she’s presented with at each step along the way. Decisions that would break even the best of us. But plausibly, and with so much turmoil and heart, Black shows us just how Tamara not only survives, but starts to bond with her captors in ways only someone so innocent could. With her heart in the right place. 

It’s through this focus on her survival, that we get to know more about both Tamara’s world and that of the Crow People, the Garuwa.  And Tamara’s place within the troop that has, in effect, kidnapped her—and no spoilers here on just how she manages to do that, it’s so damn clever. We get to know the enigmatic leader, Tootoopne, to individual members of the squad, Wooloo and Tweetoo who in turn slowly bond with Tamara too. 

This is no easy read, it was, for me, at least, heart-wrenching in places, so much so that I found myself shedding a tear or two. This is a story that goes right for the emotional jugular and never lets up. It’s tough, brutal, heartbreak, heart—warming, uplifting, and at times, will break you into little pieces. Yet … yet at the same time, we slowly see the bonds of family and friendship, we see the hope breaking through and, in the end, a way is found for an uneasy truce to be forged between Garuwa and humans.

This is a powerful read, and testament to the author that she not only threaded the needle but made it all work in such a way as to leave a reader wrecked by the end—but in a good way.

If you are looking for outstanding world building, a character with such heart she will bleed you dry, snappy dialogue, and secondary characters that reach out to you from the page, then I suggest you grab yourself a copy of In The Dark Spaces, and be prepared for one hell of a read!

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