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…
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… an adrenaline-soaked, deeply humane, life-affirming first-contact novel from one of Scotland’s most revered authors…
**Selected for BBC 2 Between the Covers 2023**
‘All the drive, curiosity and wonder of his crime and mystery novels … science fiction gains a new author’ Derek B Miller
‘If you read one life-affirming book this year, make sure it’s this one’ Nina Pottell, Prima
‘A sci-fi novel that is as moving as it is magical and mysterious. Doug Johnstone has hit it out of the park again’ Mark Billingham
‘A delicious, demanding departure from Doug Johnstone’ Val McDermid
Doug Johnstone fans are a force in Scottish fiction lovers to be reckoned with and their unstinting loyalty to the Skelf family is well documented. I’m sure that there a fair few of us that were a wee bit unsure about this departure from such a well-loved series and wondering how they’d find their foray into science fiction. Having loved Faultlines so much, I was definitely looking forward to reading another stand-alone novel and feeling intrigued by the #MeetSandy hashtag, I was raring to go as soon as I got my hands on it…
As ever I’m grateful to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Karen Sullivan from Orenda for always picking the best books to blog about as part of #TeamOrenda. The March weather has been far from springlike this year, and it was amazing to be able to curl up with a good book and immerse myself in the story of Lennox, Ava, Helen & Ewan – and not to forget Sandy himself. It was such an immersive read that I could not stop once I’d started, and I’m dying to have a chat with someone else who’s read it as there’s just so much to talk about…
This latest book has definitely proven that he can write astonishingly well in any genre it’s plain to see why Doug remains such a favourite with all the Orenda bloggers, both old and new. The genius in his writing is that even though we are plunged into ever more complicated scenarios in each successive read, it always feels believable due to the characters that we meet in his books and the way that he makes us think hard whilst we connect with them, and live through the twists and turns of the narrative right alongside them. This book is far from my usual genre, but I fell for it hook, line, and sinker and I’ll do my very best to make sure that as many of my book-loving friends bag themselves a copy as soon as they possibly can.
I got absolutely engrossed in the intertwined tales of these characters. Doug Johnstone’s deft handling of big ideas such as connection, humanity and resilience really do set this book apart from the other books that I’ve read this month and have proven to me more than ever that the Orenda brand is just unbeatable in its consistent delivery of genre-defying, intelligently written fiction. I am vowing to keep this spoiler free so I’ll stop myself from explaining just why I found Sandy’s story so fascinating and thought-provoking – I’ll just say that I’m sure that you’ll find the literal and metaphorical journeys in this book just as compelling as I did. I am still thinking about the final few pages now and I guarantee that you won’t be able to step away from thinking about these characters long after you’ve closed the final page.
Doug Johnstone remains one of my very favourite writers as he manages such a compelling balance between tense situations and everyday events and that’s why his writing is so very satisfying. He never sacrifices character in the name of plot and that’s why we’ve all become such dedicated fans. You want to understand the bigger picture here, but you care just as much about them as people as you do about how the loose ends will be tied up. Their lives are complex and three-dimensional, their problems are the ones caused by their complicated lives of course – but they’re also the problems that many people have struggled with in terms of life choices and relationships that make them feel like people we know and people who matter to us. You will find yourself thinking about them, even when you’re not reading about them and you will definitely not forget them in a hurry.
This book will be sure to please Doug Johnstone’s many fans – but will also bring him many many more. We were all so delighted to hear about this book being picked up by Between The Covers and I could not be more delighted to hear Doug and his books being talked about more widely. It’s very well deserved and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Buy yourself a copy of The Space Between Us this Easter, and set aside some time to really enjoy it. It’s a perfect Autumn read I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a strong contender for my read of the year and one that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s an absolute 10/10 from me for one of my favorite Scottish writers. I loved meeting Sandy and I know you will too. It’s fantastic to be able to share my thoughts about the book, but don’t just take my word for it – check out what these other bloggers had to say too…
Writer On The Shelf
Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His tenth novel, Breakers, was published by Orenda Books in May 2019, and was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. His previous books include The Jump, shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Gone Again, an Amazon bestseller, and Hit & Run, which was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.
Doug has been Writer in Residence with William Purves Funeral Directors. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow, and was RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh 2014-2016. Doug was also Writer in Residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. He is also a manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy and Emergents in the Scottish Highlands. He has taught creative writing at festivals and conferences and regularly at Moniack Mhor, and he has mentored aspiring writers for New Writing North and Scottish Book Trust.
Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield as player-manager. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released three solo EPs. He plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a crime writing supergroup featuring Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste.
Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars. He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.