Empty Space, by Alan Black
Can a sociopath be a hero? Why yes. Yes he can.
I love Alan Black’s books because he takes a fun sci-fi adventure and peppers it with truly interesting characters who give the story an extra level of exploration and fascination. This one has that in spades.
The book starts out like many other sci-fi tales, in a far-future world of a highly stratified society where our hero is, against all odds, working to rise above his lower-class roots and make something of himself. It comes as no surprise that members of the higher society whose ranks he aspires to join are not welcoming, and actively set out to sabotage him. What is a surprise is the character’s reaction.
I’m not going to spoil the author’s gradual development and unveiling of his main character, but I will tell you that Mr. Black does what very few authors do: he acknowledges that his character comes from a difficult upbringing, he doesn’t shy away from the horrible things that happen to that character as a member of a disadvantaged class. Moreover, the author does shy away from the emotional scars that the character’s past has left. Instead, those scars become the key to why this main character is different than any of the others whose stories you’ve read.
By the end, I found myself rooting for the main character, of course, while at the same time having a vigorous internal debate with myself about what it said about me that I was pulling for a guy who, to be honest, did some pretty terrible things to other people, deserved or not.
Thank you, Mr. Black, for giving me that extra layer of meaning and introspection. It makes a fun story so much more.